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Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

Frequently Asked Questions about the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

  1. For the 2007 CBECS, why is there information only for large hospitals and not the rest of the commercial building population?
  2. What do you mean by "commercial"?
  3. Can I get this information by State (or county, or city, etc.)?
  4. What does the figure "4,859,000 total commercial buildings" represent?
  5. Are the consumption and expenditures estimates annual data?
  6. Are historical CBECS data available?
  7. Do you have any forecasts for growth in the commercial sector?
  8. Are the data available by NAICS or SIC code?
  9. Why are the CBECS figures different from the commercial data in the Annual Energy Review or the Monthly Energy Review?
  10. Is it possible to obtain a list of all the buildings that participated in your survey?

1. For the 2007 CBECS, why is there information only for large hospitals and not 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, EIA determined that the buildings sampled from this experimental frame were not representative of the commercial building population and therefore 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 were 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.

2. What do you mean by "commercial"?

In the CBECS, commercial refers to any building that is neither residential (used as a dwelling for one or more households), manufacturing/industrial (used for processing or procurement of goods, merchandise raw materials or food), nor agricultural (used for the production, processing, sale, storage, or housing of agricultural products, including livestock). At least 50 percent of the floorspace must be used for purposes other than these for a building to be considered "commercial."

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

No, unfortunately, due to sample size and confidentiality issues, State-level estimates (or anything geographically smaller) are not available. The smallest level of geographic detail for which data are available are Census divisions, of which there are nine in the U.S. (Click here for a map showing the state groupings).

4. What does the figure "4,859,000 total commercial buildings" represent—is it the number in your sample or the actual number of buildings in the U.S.?

This figure is an estimate of the number of commercial buildings in the U.S. in 2003. It is based on a sample of 5,215 buildings across the country which were statistically sampled and then weighted to represent the entire stock of commercial buildings in the U.S. See the CBECS Technical Information section for details and further information on sampling and how the survey is conducted.

5. Are the consumption and expenditures estimates annual data?

Yes, all data in the CBECS are annual figures for the survey year (e.g. 2003).

6. Are historical CBECS data available?

CBECS has been conducted since 1979; the 2003 CBECS is the eighth iteration. For the 1999, 1995, and 1992 CBECS, all published data and reports are available on the CBECS website, in the form of 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 1980's." Also, the "Annual Energy Review" includes a couple summary tables with data from every CBECS (Tables 2.9 and 2.10).

7. Do you have any forecasts for growth in the commercial sector?

The Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting (another office within the Energy Information Administration) publishes the Annual Energy Outlook, which presents midterm forecasts and analyses of U.S. energy supply, demand, and prices through 2030. Table 32 from the supplement to this report provides forecasts of commercial buildings energy consumption and floorspace through 2030 by type of building.

8. Are the data available by NAICS or SIC code?

No, not really. The CBECS principal building activities(PBAs) were designed to group buildings that have similar patterns of energy consumption, and 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 since CBECS deals with the building 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, due to popular demand, we have attempted to create a rough crosswalk of CBECS PBAs to 2002 NAICS codes (3 digit) [opens an Excel file in a new window].

9. 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 is 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 to 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, but may also include energy used for unenclosed equipment, exterior lighting, or construction, for example. CBECS specifically excludes any energy use that is outside the building.

10. Is it possible to obtain a list of all the buildings that participated in your survey?

No, CBECS respondent information is kept strictly confidential. To ensure this 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.


Specific questions on this product may be directed to:

Joelle Michaels
joelle.michaels@eia.gov
Survey Manager