U.S. Energy Information Administration logo
‹ Consumption & Efficiency

Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

Guide to the 2012 CBECS Detailed Tables

The Detailed Tables for the 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) consist of building characteristics tables (B1-B46), which contain the number of buildings and amount of floorspace for structural and energy-related characteristics of buildings, and consumption and expenditures tables, which contain total energy usage data by the major energy sources (C1-C38) and end-use energy consumption estimates (E1-E11). For more information about the end-use estimates see Estimation of Energy End-Use Consumption.

Column categories

The column categories in the building characteristics tables mostly provide counts of number of buildings or total floorspace by various building characteristics (with the exception of Tables B1 and B2, which also include means, medians, and ratios). For example, in Table B3, the number in the All buildings row, in the column labeled Northeast under the heading Number of buildings (thousand) tells us that there were an estimated 805,000 buildings in the Northeast Census region in 2012. This same column under the heading Total floorspace (million square feet) tells us that these buildings comprised about 15,534,000,000 square feet of total floorspace.

The column categories in the energy consumption and expenditures tables provide various measures of energy use. The following terms, listed in alphabetical order, are explanations of some of these columns that may require clarification:

Conditional energy intensity—The amount of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, or district heat used per square foot only in buildings using the specified energy source. For example, in Table C15, data in the row labeled Education within the Principal building activity row category and in the column labeled Northeast under Electricity energy intensity should be interpreted: "In 2012, education buildings in the Northeast that used electricity as an energy source used an average of 8.7 kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity per square foot."

Distribution of building-level intensities—The amount of energy used per square foot, divided into three percentiles: 25th, median (50th), and 75th. In Table C14, for example, the row labeled Over 500,000 within the Building floorspace row category and in the column labeled 25th percentile under Distribution of building-level intensities should be interpreted: "In 2012, 25 percent of commercial buildings in the United States that were larger than 500,000 square feet used 10.1 kWh per square foot or less, and 75 percent of these buildings used more than 10.1 kWh of electricity per square foot."

Electricity—In CBECS tables, electricity refers to site electricity. (See Site electricity and Primary electricity on this page.)

Energy intensity—Usually defined as gross energy intensity or conditional energy intensity in title of table. If table title does not specify, energy intensity should be interpreted as conditional energy intensity.

Floorspace—The enclosed area in a building; the sum of the floorspace in all buildings in a category.

Gross energy intensity—The ratio of the total amount of energy consumed by a group of buildings to the total floorspace of those buildings, including buildings and floorspace where the energy source is not used. For example, in Table C5, data in the row category Education within the Principal building activity row category and in the column labeled Northeast under Energy intensity for sum of major fuels should be interpreted: "In 2012, education buildings in the Northeast consumed an average of 82.1 thousand Btu per square foot."

Major fuel—Major energy sources: electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat (district steam or district hot water). Although electricity is technically not a fuel, Major fuel, rather than Major energy source, was retained as the title of this category to facilitate comparison of previous CBECS data.

Primary electricity—Site electricity plus the losses associated with the generation, transmission, and distribution of the electricity. Most of the tables present statistics for site consumption alone, but Tables C1 and C13 also provide consumption statistics for primary electricity.

Site electricity—The amount of electricity delivered to the commercial building. This amount excludes losses associated with the generation, transmission, and distribution of the electricity. (See primary electricity on this page.) Most of the tables in the CBECS provide statistics for site electricity (not for primary electricity). When the term electricity is used alone, the reference is to site electricity.

Sum of major fuels—The total of site electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat. Statistics in this column exclude data from the column Primary electricity.

Row categories

The row categories classify data by specific features, such as principal building activity or energy sources used. Some of these categories are followed by the phrase more than one may apply, indicating overlapping categories. In such row categories, a particular building may be represented in more than one row; for example, in the Energy sources row category, a building that uses both electricity and natural gas would be included in both the Electricity and Natural gas rows. In general, row categories without this designation are mutually exclusive, that is, they divide the population of buildings into distinct groups, so that a particular building is represented in no more than one line within the row category.

Any line within a row category that is indented should be interpreted as being a subset of the preceding line. For example, in the row category Principal building activity, there are two indented lines under Health care; Inpatient and Outpatient are both subsets of the Health care category. The sum of indented items will equal the main item except in row categories labeled as more than one may apply.

Following are descriptions of some of the row categories found in the tables that may require clarification or that may need explanation of changes in definition since the 2003 CBECS. These terms are listed in the order in which they occur in the tables. Definitions of most terms found in the Detailed Tables can also be found in CBECS Terminology.

All buildings—The CBECS definition of all commercial buildings includes all roofed and walled structures whose principal activities are nonresidential, nonagricultural, and nonindustrial and that are larger than 1,000 square feet (roughly twice the size of a two-car garage).  

All of the figures in the Detailed Tables are statistical estimates of the U.S. commercial building population. The totals are estimated by applying sampling weights to a probability-based sample of buildings (see How Were Buildings Selected for the 2012 CBECS? for more information).

Principal building activity—This row category presents a classification of the commercial activity that occupies the most floorspace in the building. Some building types are combined in the tables. For example, refrigerated and non-refrigerated warehouses were combined as Warehouse and storage and skilled nursing care buildings are included in the Lodging category. See Description of Building Types for a full description of the principal building activity categories.

Census region and division—These are the geographical areas as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. See Census Regions and Divisions Map for a map of the four Census Regions and nine Census Divisions.

Climate region—The 2012 CBECS is no longer providing the historical HDD- and CDD-based climate zones that were used in previous survey cycles and is instead using climate regions created by the Building America program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Ownership and occupancy—Minor changes were made between the 2003 and 2012 CBECS versions of the question on owner occupancy, leading to some changes in the display of this row category:

  • In 2003, the respondent was simply asked whether the building owner occupied any space in the building, and this was reported in the tables as either Owner occupied or Nonowner occupied.
  • In 2012, the question was re-worded to include the phrase leased to a tenant, and it was asked differently depending on whether the building was single occupant or multi-occupant (as reported in a previous question). For single occupant buildings, the question was worded: “Does the owner occupy the building or is it leased to a tenant?” For multi-occupant buildings: “Is the space in this building occupied by the owner, leased to tenants, or a combination of both?” These response options are reported in the tables as Owner occupied, Leased to tenant(s), or Owner occupied and leased.

Predominant roof material—The order of the list of roof materials has been rearranged slightly since the 2003 CBECS and three of the descriptions were reworded, but the survey question itself remained unchanged between the 2003 and the 2012 CBECS. The re-worded descriptions are: Slate or tile is now Slate or tile shingles; Wooden materials is now Wooden materials (including shingles); and Shingles (Not Wood) is now Asphalt, fiberglass, or other shingles.

Roof characteristics—This row category is new to the 2012 CBECS and combines information from two new survey questions about roof tilt and cool roofs:

  • Roof tilt was collected by asking the respondent to choose the tilt or pitch of the roof from illustrations on a show card. Shallow pitch was also described as 3 in 12 or less; 14° or less and steeper pitch as more than 3 in 12; more than 14°.
  • The cool roof question was phrased: “Is the roof of this building designed to reduce solar heat gain, also known as a ‘cool roof’?” The following explanation was also provided: “Roofs with a highly reflective surface, a ballasted roof system, a vegetated roof system, or any combination of these technologies should be considered a ‘cool roof’.”

Renovations in buildings constructed before 2008—In the 2003 CBECS, this row category was called Renovations in Buildings Constructed Before 1980. The 2012 version of this question underwent a number of changes:

  • In the 2012 CBECS, instead of being limited to buildings constructed before 1980, the renovation question was asked of all except the newest buildings (the question was skipped for buildings constructed from 2008 to 2012). For buildings constructed in 1990 or later, it was worded: “Has any portion of this building undergone renovations since it was constructed?” and for buildings constructed before 1990: “Has any portion of this building undergone renovations since 1990?”
  • The word major was removed from the question, i.e. the 2003 CBECS asked about major renovations while the 2012 CBECS just asked about renovations. In 2012, within the follow-up list of types of renovations, one option was Interior or exterior cosmetic improvements. Buildings that chose only this type of renovation were re-coded in the Detailed Tables as No renovations.
  • Three specific renovation types were added to the follow-up question and to the table row category: Electrical upgrade; Fire, safety, or security upgrade; and Structural upgrade (foundation or seismic upgrade).

Energy sources—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for any purpose during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, district heat (district steam or district hot water), district chilled water, propane, wood, coal, solar, and other. In Tables B1 and B2, wood, coal, and solar are reported separately, but in the rest of the tables they are combined into the Other category.

In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or amount of floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for any purpose. For example, in Table B11 (Selected principal building activity), the figure in the Office column and the Natural gas row should be interpreted: "600,000 office buildings used natural gas for some purpose in 2012." As another example, in Table B38 (Heating equipment), the figure in the column Furnaces and the row Natural gas should be interpreted: "550,000 buildings have a furnace and also use natural gas for some purpose."

In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for any purpose. For example, in Table C4, the figure in the column Sum of major fuel consumption per square foot and the row Fuel oil should be interpreted: "Buildings that used fuel oil for any purpose consumed an average 110,500 Btu of combined electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat per square foot in 2012." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption specifically of fuel oil.)

Space-heating energy sources—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for main or secondary space heating during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, district heat (district steam or district hot water), propane, wood, coal, solar, and other. In Tables B1 and B2, wood, coal, and solar are reported separately, but in the rest of the tables they are combined into the Other category. In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for main or secondary space heating.

For example, in Table B38 (Heating equipment), the figure in the column Heat pumps and the row Natural gas should be interpreted: "188,000 buildings have a heat pump and also use natural gas as an energy source for space heating." (It should NOT be interpreted as the number of buildings that use natural gas to power a heat pump. It is possible that they also use electricity for space heating, and that electricity is the energy source used for the heat pump.) In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for space heating. For example, in Table C23, the figure in the column Natural gas consumption and the row Natural Gas should be interpreted: "1,923 billion cubic feet of natural gas were used in buildings that use natural gas for space heating." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption of natural gas specifically for space heating; that figure is found in either Table E7 or E8.)

Primary space-heating energy source—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for main or secondary space heating during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, district heat (district steam or district hot water), propane, wood, coal, solar, and other. In Tables B1 and B2, wood, coal, and solar are reported separately, but in the rest of the tables they are combined into the Other category. In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for main or secondary space heating. For example, in Table B38 (Heating equipment), the figure in the column Heat pumps and the row Natural gas should be interpreted: "188,000 buildings have a heat pump and also use natural gas as an energy source for space heating." (It should NOT be interpreted as the number of buildings that use natural gas to power a heat pump. It is possible that they also use electricity for space heating, and that electricity is the energy source used for the heat pump.)

In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for space heating. For example, in Table C23, the figure in the column Natural gas consumption and the row Natural Gas should be interpreted: "1,923 billion cubic feet of natural gas were used in buildings that use natural gas for space heating." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption of natural gas specifically for space heating; that figure is found in either Table E7 or E8.)

Cooling energy source—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for cooling the building during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, and district chilled water. In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for cooling. For example, in Table B40 (Cooling equipment), the figure in the column Central chillers and the row Electricity should be interpreted: "162,000 buildings have a central chiller for cooling and also use electricity for cooling." (It should NOT be interpreted as the number of buildings that use electricity to power a central chiller. It is possible that the central chiller is powered by natural gas while the electricity is used to run a heat pump for cooling, for example.)

In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for cooling. For example, in Table C13, the figure in the column Site electricity consumption and the row Electricity should be interpreted: "1,159 billion kWh of total electricity were used in buildings that use electricity as a cooling energy source." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption of electricity specifically for cooling; that figure is found in Table E3 or E5.)

Water-heating energy source—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for water heating in the building during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, district heat (district steam or district hot water), and propane. In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for water heating.

In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for water heating. For example, in Table C23, the figure in the column Natural gas consumption and the row Natural gas should be interpreted: "1,728 billion cubic feet of natural gas were used in buildings that use natural gas for water heating." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption of natural gas specifically for water heating; that figure is found in Table E7 or E8.)

Cooking energy source—This row category tabulates buildings using each of the following energy sources for cooking in the building during the reference year: electricity, natural gas, and propane.  In the building characteristics tables, this row indicates the number of buildings or floorspace in buildings that use each energy source for cooking.

In the consumption and expenditures tables, this row indicates total consumption in buildings that use each energy source for cooking. For example, in Table C13, the figure in the column Site electricity consumption and the row Electricity should be interpreted: "454 billion kWh of electricity were used in buildings that use electricity for cooking." (It should NOT be interpreted as the consumption of electricity specifically for cooking; that figure is found in Table E3 or E5.)

Energy end uses—This row category tabulates buildings in which some energy was used for the specific end uses (heating, air-conditioning, water heating, cooking, and manufacturing) in the building during the reference year. For example, in Table B6 (Building size), the figure in the 1,001 to 5,000 square feet column and the Buildings with cooking row should be interpreted: “673,000 buildings between the sizes of 1,001 and 5,000 square feet used some energy for cooking in 2012.” For another example, in Table C1, data in the Buildings with cooling row and in the Sum of major fuels column should interpreted: "Buildings with cooling consumed a total of 6,774 trillion Btu of the major fuels." It should NOT be interpreted as the amount of energy specifically used for cooling; that figure is found in Table E1.

Percent lit during off hours—In the 2003 CBECS, this row category was called Percent Lit When Closed. The question sequence was modified for the 2012 CBECS, which resulted in a change to the row category:

  • In the 2003 CBECS, buildings that were always open were not asked what percent of the building was lit during off hours, assuming that because they were open all the time, the lighting would never be reduced.
  • In the 2012 CBECS, however, it was not assumed that lighting was never reduced in buildings that were always open. Instead, for buildings open all the time, this question was asked: “Are there any periods during a normal 24-hour day when some of the lights are turned off?” If the response was “Yes,” the question about percent lit during off hours was asked, just as it was for buildings that were sometimes closed. In the modified row category, there is a row for buildings that are always open with no off hours (i.e. the respondent reported that there weren’t any periods during a normal 24-hour day when some lights are turned off) and a separate row for buildings that don’t use electricity (and were therefore also not asked the percent lit questions).

Heating equipment—A comparison of the types of heating equipment reported between 2003 and 2012 reveals some notable differences. For example, there were fewer furnaces and more packaged heating units reported in 2012 than in the 2003 CBECS. These changes are substantial, and are likely due to questionnaire changes rather than to actual changes in the types of equipment being used in buildings. The 2003 CBECS simply asked the respondent to choose from the list of seven heating equipment types; these responses were coded in the data as they were reported. No additional clarification was requested. The 2012 CBECS, however, used a series of follow-up questions which resulted in reclassification of some of the heating equipment types. Specifically:

  • When a furnace was reported, the respondent was asked if it was a (1) packaged central unit (roof mounted), (2) split system (residential-type furnace with DX cooling unit), (3) duct furnace, or (4) an individual room furnace (freestanding or floor-mounted). The only one of these furnace types that was retained as a furnace in the data file was (2) split system. Responses (1) packaged central unit and (3) duct furnace were classified as packaged units and response (4) individual room furnace was classified as an individual space heater. The respondent was informed that for the purposes of the study, their equipment was going to be referred to as something other than a furnace.
  • When an other type of heating equipment was reported, the respondent was asked if it included any of these components: (1) heating coil or electric heat strip, (2) duct reheat or electric reheat, (3) powered induction units (PIU), or (4) none of these components.

If responses (1), (2), or (3) were provided, the treatment of the other equipment depended on what heating equipment had already been reported:

    • If the respondent had already reported a packaged unit, the other equipment was removed because it was considered to be part of the packaged unit.
    • If the respondent had already reported a boiler or district heating, the other equipment was removed because it was considered to be part of of the boiler or the district heating system.
    • If neither packaged units or boilers or district heating had been previously reported, the other equipment was removed and a packaged unit was added as the heating equipment.

If the respondent answered (4) none of these components, they were asked to describe the other type of heating system. The interviewer entered the response verbatim. EIA reviewed all these responses and recoded as appropriate when the description matched one of the listed equipment types. If the heating equipment description did not fit into one of the listed categories, the response was retained as other heating equipment.

Lighting equipment types—A category for light emitting diode (LED) bulbs was added for the 2012 CBECS.

Refrigeration equipment—Some slight changes were made in tabulation between 2003 and 2012:

  • The 2003 CBECS included a row for Commercial Refrigeration in order to be comparable to the 1999 CBECS Any Equipment row, since the 1999 CBECS didn’t ask about any residential-type refrigeration equipment.
  • The 2012 CBECS does not include a row comparable to the 1999 CBECS Any Equipment row; the Any refrigeration row now includes all buildings with any type of refrigeration equipment, whether residential- or commercial-type. Information about the types of refrigeration equipment collected has been expanded since 2003: the 2012 CBECS also collected information about large cold storage areas, commercial ice makers, and compact or half-size refrigerators. Although the presence and number of compact or half-size refrigerators were collected separately in the survey, they are combined with full-size residential refrigerators in the table row Residential-type or compact units.

Office equipment—For the first time, the 2012 CBECS differentiated between desktop computers and laptop computers. Therefore, while the 2003 CBECS office equipment row category has just one row for Computers, the 2012 CBECS version splits this information into two rows: one row for Desktop computers and one row for Laptop computers. These rows should be interpreted as the number of buildings that have at least one desktop computer (3,977,000 total buildings) and the number that have at least one laptop computer (2,730,000 total buildings). There are two additional items of information about desktop computers in the 2012 tables: the number of buildings with at least one computer with a flat screen monitor (3,847,000 total buildings) and the number of buildings where at least one of the computers has multiple monitors (911,000 total buildings)

Food preparation or serving areas in non-food service buildings—In the 2003 CBECS, Commercial Food Preparation was a single row within a row category called Energy-Related Space Functions. Instead of a single summary line, the 2012 CBECS tables provide a breakdown of the different types of food preparation areas (Snack bar or concession stand, Fast food or small restaurant, Cafeteria or large restaurant, Commercial kitchen/food preparation area, and Small kitchen area). To preclude redundancy, buildings with a principal building activity of food service were not asked whether they had any space for food preparation or serving, so they are not included in these counts. If the building respondent did not report cooking as an end use in the building, they were not asked about these space types.

Separate computer areas—In the 2003 CBECS, Separate Computer Area was a single row within a row category called Energy-Related Space Functions. Instead of a single summary line, the 2012 CBECS tables provide a breakdown of some of the different types of separate computer areas (Data center or server farm, Computer-based training room, and Student or public computer center). The 2012 CBECS also asked about trading floors as a separate computer area but there were not enough reported to tabulate.

HVAC conservation features—The row that is labeled Building automation system (BAS) in the 2012 CBECS was named Energy Management and Control System (EMCS) in the 2003 CBECS. These terms are synonymous for the purposes of the CBECS; EMCS is still mentioned in the 2012 question text: “Does this building have a ‘Building Automation System’ which may also be referred to as BAS, smart building controls, an energy management and control system, or EMCS?”

The estimated number of buildings with an EMCS or BAS has grown substantially since the 2003 CBECS; this growth should be partially attributed to the skip patterns in the survey instrument:

  • In the 2003 CBECS, respondents did not have the opportunity to report an EMCS unless they answered “Yes” to a question asking if they changed the temperature settings for heating or cooling during off hours. At that point, they were asked how they changed the temperature settings, and one of the response options was EMCS.
  • In the 2012 CBECS, all buildings with heating or cooling were asked the BAS question.

Window and interior lighting features—There are five lighting features in this row category that were new questionnaire items for the CBECS (Light scheduling, Occupancy sensors, Multi-level lighting or dimming, Daylight harvesting, and Demand responsive lighting). Definitions of these lighting features can be found in CBECS Terminology.

A similar issue exists for the Building automation system (BAS) for lighting row as was described above in HVAC features:

  • In the 2003 CBECS, respondents did not have a chance to report an EMCS unless they answered “Yes” to a question asking if they changed the temperature settings for heating or cooling during off hours. At that point, they were asked how they changed the temperature settings, and one of the response options was EMCS. Then, only buildings that chose EMCS as a response in the heating and/or cooling section were later asked whether the EMCS also controls the interior lighting system.
  • In the 2012 CBECS, all buildings with heating or cooling were asked the BAS question. If they answered “Yes” to that question, then later in the lighting section of the questionnaire they were asked if the BAS also controls the interior lighting system.

Relative Standard Errors (RSEs)

Standard error is a measure of the reliability or precision of the survey statistic. The value for the standard error can be used to construct confidence intervals and to perform hypothesis tests by standard statistical methods. Relative Standard Error (RSE) is defined as the standard error (square root of the variance) of a survey estimate, divided by the survey estimate and multiplied by 100.

Each Excel version of the Detailed Tables contains a second worksheet labeled RSE, which contains the RSE for each cell in the corresponding table. These RSEs can be used to construct confidence intervals and test for statistical differences as described in What is an RSE?.