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Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

Survey Background and Technical Information

Survey Background

The commercial sector encompasses a vast range of building types-service businesses, such as retail and wholesale stores, hotels and motels, restaurants, and hospitals, as well as certain buildings that would not be considered "commercial" in a traditional economic sense, such as public and private schools, correctional institutions, and religious and fraternal organizations. Excluded from the sector are the goods-producing industries: manufacturing, agriculture, mining, forestry and fisheries, and construction.

Nearly all energy use in the commercial sector takes place in, or is associated with, the buildings that house these commercial activities. Analysis of the structures, activities, and equipment associated with different types of buildings is the clearest way to evaluate commercial sector energy use. The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) is a national-level sample survey of commercial buildings and their energy suppliers conducted quadrennially (previously triennially) by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The 2018 CBECS was the eleventh survey in the series begun in 1979. From 1979 to 1986, the survey was known as the Nonresidential Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, or NBECS.

Technical Information

The following topics provide detailed information on survey methodology, the kinds of errors associated with sample surveys, estimation of standard errors, estimation of energy end-use consumption, and the relationship between CBECS and EIA supply surveys. Methodology for specific survey years can be found on the Methodology tab of the Data page for that survey year. Specific technical information for older CBECS surveys are found in the Appendices of the data reports for that year.

EIA also conducts research to improve and expand CBECS data collection. Research results are provided below and may be found on the Methodology tab of the Data page for the applicable survey year.

Questions about CBECS may be directed to:

Joelle Michaels
Survey Manager