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Determining Building Eligibility

Release date: April 12, 2023

A building was eligible for the 2018 CBECS if it met three criteria: (1) building definition, (2) building use, and (3) building size.

Criterion 1—building definition

A building is a structure totally enclosed by walls extending from the foundation to the roof and ready for occupancy during the reference year (not under construction, dilapidated, or condemned). Structures erected on pillars to elevate the first fully enclosed level but leaving the sides at ground level open are also included as buildings in the CBECS. The CBECS specifically excludes the following buildings and structures:

  • Structures that people do not usually enter, such as oil storage tanks, the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant, and pumping stations
  • Buildings on most military bases and buildings where access is restricted for national security reasons
  • Foreign embassies
  • Monuments
  • Enclosed parking garages (included in CBECS before 1995)
  • Commercial buildings, such as office buildings, located on manufacturing sites (included in CBECS before 1995)

Criterion 2—building use

To be included in the CBECS, a building must be used primarily for some commercial purpose; that is, more than 50% of the building's floorspace must be devoted to activities that are not residential, manufacturing, industrial, or agricultural. The primary use of the sampled building governs whether the building is included in the CBECS. For a list of building uses included in CBECS, see Building Type Definitions. The following are examples of buildings that are not included in the CBECS:

  • Farm buildings, such as barns (unless space is used for retail sales to the general public)
  • Industrial or manufacturing buildings that involve the processing or procurement of goods, merchandise, or food (unless space is used for retail sales to the general public)
  • Single-family detached dwellings that are primarily residential, even if the occupants use part of the dwelling for business purposes
  • Large mixed-use buildings in which the majority of floors are residential units, even if the street-level businesses are commercial
  • Mobile homes that are not placed on a permanent foundation (even if the mobile home is used for nonresidential purposes)

Criterion 3—building size

A commercial building must measure more than 1,000 square feet (about twice the size of a two-car garage) to be eligible for the CBECS.

We apply these criteria as filters at three points in the survey process to determine each building's eligibility for the CBECS:

  • When we construct the frame, buildings are not eligible to be included if they are not a building, not commercial, or very small. The building use and minimum size requirements differ when listing buildings for the frame because building characteristics are not yet confirmed and we do not want to mistakenly leave a building out of the sample. For example, a building must only be larger than 500 square feet to be included in the frame.
  • During the first field visit to the building, the screening portion of the Buildings Survey, all three of these criteria are confirmed by interviewer observation, and buildings become ineligible if they do not meet any one of the criteria.
  • In the Buildings Survey questionnaire, questions about the building use and building size are used to end the interview for buildings that are too small or have too much noncommercial floorspace.