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Use of energy explained Energy use in commercial buildings

Energy use intensity in U.S. commercial buildings has decreased—efficiency has increased—over time

According to the 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), total floorspace in U.S. commercial buildings grew between 2012 and 2018, but energy consumption (use of energy in the buildings) did not. In addition, the number of both heating-degree days (HDD) and cooling-degree days (CDD) were higher nationally and in most regions of the country in 2018. Although the winter was generally colder and the summer was generally warmer in 2018 than in 2012, the lower consumption per square foot of building floorspace—or energy intensity—in 2018 suggests that the efficiency of energy use in commercial buildings likely increased between 2012 and 2018.

The 2018 CBECS data show a 12% decrease in the average gross energy-use intensity in all U.S. commercial buildings, from 80,000 British thermal units (Btu) per square foot in 2012 to 70,400 Btu per square foot in 2018. Between 2012 and 2018, electricity-use intensity decreased 14% and natural gas use-intensity decreased 11%.

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Energy intensity decreased in several U.S. commercial building types between 2012 and 2018

The average energy-use intensity of several commercial building types in the United States was lower in 2018 than in 2012. The most significant decreases in energy intensity between 2012 and 2018 occurred in education, inpatient healthcare, and office buildings. The 16% decrease in energy intensity in inpatient healthcare buildings was the largest percentage change of any building type. Despite this decrease in energy intensity, inpatient healthcare buildings were still among the most energy-intensive buildings, along with food sales and food service buildings. Warehouses were the most numerous and had the most floorspace of commercial buildings in 2018, but they were among the least energy-intensive building types, along with vacant buildings and buildings used for religious worship.

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Last updated: June 29, 2023, with most recent data available.