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Using & saving energy

In commercial buildings

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

Commercial buildings include a variety of building types according to the principal activity taking place in the building—offices, hospitals, schools, police stations, places of worship, warehouses, hotels, and shopping malls. Different commercial building activities have unique energy needs. Each commercial building has unique energy needs, but as a whole, about 32% of energy use for all U.S. commercial buildings in 2018 was for space heating. Ventilation and lighting were next for highest energy use in commercial buildings; each accounted for about 10% of total commercial building energy use in 2018. Climate and weather affect the relative shares of space heating and cooling annually and by region of the country.

Types of energy used in commercial buildings

Electricity accounted for 60% and natural gas for 34% of total energy use in U.S. commercial buildings in 2018. Buildings use electricity for all end uses. Natural gas is generally used directly in commercial buildings to heat water and interior space and to operate cooking and cooling equipment. Some commercial buildings use district heating and cooling systemsdistrict heating and cooling systems. Most district energy systems serve complexes of buildings associated with education, health, and public assembly activities.

Energy use intensity varies by type of building

The intensity of energy use in commercial buildings, in terms of energy use (in British thermal units) per square foot of building floor space, varies by type of commercial building. In 2018, food service, food sales, and inpatient healthcare buildings were the most energy-intensive buildings. Warehouses were the most numerous and had the most total floorspace of commercial buildings, but they were among the least energy-intensive building types, along with vacant buildings and buildings used for religious worship.