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Using & Saving Energy

In Commercial Buildings

Energy Ant

How do commercial buildings — like offices, hospitals, schools, places of worship, warehouses, hotels, barber shops, libraries, shopping malls — use energy?

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Commercial buildings include a variety of building types—offices, hospitals, schools, police stations, places of worship, warehouses, hotels, and shopping malls. Different commercial building activities have unique energy needs, but as a whole, space heating accounted for about 25% of the total energy use in commercial buildings in 2012.

Types of energy used in commercial buildings

Electricity and natural gas are the most common energy sources used in commercial buildings. Most individual commercial buildings have their own heating and cooling systems. However, some commercial buildings are supplied by district energy systems. When many buildings are close together, such as on a college campus or in a big city, it is sometimes more efficient to have a central heating and cooling plant that distributes steam, hot water, or chilled water to all the buildings. District energy systems may also produce electricity along with heating and cooling energy. District energy systems generally use fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, or fuel oil), although some use renewable sources of energy (biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind energy).

Energy use by type of building

Of all the commercial building types, mercantile and service buildings use the most total energy. Other commercial users of energy include offices, schools, health care and lodging facilities, food establishments, and many others.

Image of the types of energy used by commercial buildings in 2012. Electricity is 61%, natural gas is 32%, district is heating 5%, and fuel oil is 2%.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey: Energy Usage Summary, Table 1 (March 2016)

The top five energy-consuming building categories used about half of the energy consumed by all commercial buildings in 2012, and they include the following types of buildings:

  • Mercantile and service (15% of total energy consumed by commercial buildings)
    • Malls and stores
    • Car dealerships
    • Dry cleaners
    • Gas stations
  • Office (14% of consumption)
    • Professional and government offices
    • Banks
  • Education (10% of consumption)
    • Elementary, middle, and high school
    • Colleges
  • Health care (8% of consumption)
    • Hospitals
    • Medical offices
  • Lodging (6% of consumption)
    • Hotels
    • Dormitories
    • Nursing homes