‹ Consumption & Efficiency

Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

FAQs for CBECS

For the 2007 CBECS, why is there information only for large hospitals and not for the rest of the commercial building population?
What do you mean by commercial?
Can I get this information by state (or county, or city, etc.)?
What does the figure 5,557,000 total commercial buildings represent—is it the number in your sample or the actual number of buildings in the United States?
Are the consumption and expenditures estimates annual data?
Are historical CBECS data available?
Does the U.S. Energy Information Administration have forecast growth in the commercial sector?
Are the data available by NAICS or SIC code?
Why are CBECS figures different from the commercial data in the Annual Energy Review or Monthly Energy Review?
Is it possible to obtain a list of all the buildings that participated in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's CBECS survey?

For the 2007 CBECS, why is there information only for large hospitals and not for the rest of the commercial building population?

A majority of the 2007 CBECS buildings were sampled from a frame that used a less expensive experimental method to update the 2003 frame for new construction. After careful analysis, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) determined that the buildings sampled from this experimental frame were not representative of the commercial building population. As a result, the 2007 CBECS sample as a whole did not meet EIA standards for quality, credible energy information. However, the large hospital buildings are a subset of the CBECS sample that was not sampled from the experimental frame. They were sampled from high-quality, well-established lists of hospitals, federal buildings, and other large buildings. EIA did a thorough evaluation of this frame and the data collected from its sampled units and deemed them to be representative of the large hospital building population as a whole.

What do you mean by commercial?

In the CBECS, commercial refers to any building that is not residential (used as a dwelling for one or more households), manufacturing/industrial (used for processing or procurement of goods, merchandise, raw materials, or food), or agricultural (used for the production, processing, sale, storage, or housing of agricultural products, including livestock). At least 50% of the floor space must be used for purposes other than residential, manufacturing/industrial, or agricultural for a building to be considered commercial.   

Can I get this information by state (or county, or city, etc.)?

No, unfortunately, because of sample size and confidentiality issues, state-level estimates are not published/not released. The smallest level of geographic detail for which data are available is Census divisions. There are nine Census divisions in the United States. (See the map of state groupings for more information).

What does the figure 5,557,000 total commercial buildings represent—is it the number in your sample or the actual number of buildings in the United States?

This figure is an estimate of the number of commercial buildings in the United States in 2012. It is based on a sample of 6,720 buildings across the country that were statistically sampled and then weighted to represent the entire stock of commercial buildings in the United States. See the 2012 CBECS Methodology section for details and more information on sampling and how the survey is conducted.

Are the consumption and expenditures estimates annual data?

Yes, all data in the CBECS are annual figures for the survey year (e.g., 2012).

Are historical CBECS data available?

CBECS has been conducted since 1979; the 2012 CBECS is the tenth iteration. For the 2003, 1999, 1995, and 1992 CBECS, all published data and reports are available on the CBECS webpage, in detailed tables, public use data, and special reports. Selected data from the 1989, 1986, 1983, and 1979 CBECS can be found in the tables of the special report Buildings and Energy in the 1980s. The Annual Energy Review includes summary tables with data from every CBECS (Tables 2.9 and 2.10).

Does the U.S. Energy Information Administration have any forecasts for growth in the commercial sector?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Office of Energy Analysis publishes the Annual Energy Outlook, which presents midterm forecasts and analyses of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices through 2040. Table 32 from the supplement to this report provides forecasts of commercial buildings energy consumption and floor space through 2040 by type of building.

Are the data available by NAICS or SIC code?

No, the CBECS principal building activities (PBAs) were designed to group buildings that have similar patterns of energy consumption, and they are much broader than the NAICS or SIC codes. Many NAICS codes could have more than one possible CBECS PBA. It is also somewhat difficult to compare these codes because CBECS deals with the buildings sector, whereas NAICS deals with the industry. For example, a dormitory on a college campus would be classified as lodging in the CBECS but probably as education in NAICS or SIC. However, because of customer interest, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has created a rough crosswalk of CBECS PBAs to 2002 NAICS codes (3 digit).

Why are CBECS figures different from the commercial data in the Annual Energy Review or Monthly Energy Review?

Both the Annual Energy Review (AER) and Monthly Energy Review (MER) contain data described as commercial sector consumption. Although this may sound like the same information contained in the CBECS, it is not entirely comparable. The AER and MER data are sales or delivery data provided by energy suppliers, whereas CBECS data are end-user consumption figures collected directly from the building respondent or from their energy supplier, specifically about the energy used in that building.

The energy supply data are divided into broad sectoral categories, one of which is commercial, but the suppliers' definition of commercial is likely to differ from the CBECS definition. Suppliers tend to assign categories to their customers based on their rate class or the amount of energy supplied, and not necessarily on the actual type of activity occurring in the building. For example, a small non-energy-intensive assembly plant might be designated as a commercial customer, while a large energy-intensive office is considered industrial.

In addition, commercial sales accounts are not associated only with buildings. They may also include energy used for unenclosed equipment, exterior lighting, or construction. CBECS specifically excludes any energy use that is outside the building.

Is it possible to obtain a list of all the buildings that participated in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s CBECS survey?

No, CBECS respondent information is strictly confidential. To ensure confidentiality, all building identifiers are removed from the data file before the public use microdata file is created, and the location of each building is made available only at the Census division level (groups of four to nine states). In addition, building characteristics that could potentially identify a particular responding building, such as number of floors, building square footage, and number of workers in the building, are masked to protect the respondent's identity.


Questions about CBECS may be directed to:

Joelle Michaels
joelle.michaels@eia.gov
Survey Manager