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September 28, 2022

U.S. commercial buildings were consuming less energy per square foot as of 2018, according to latest EIA data

The average total amount of energy used per square foot in commercial buildings decreased by 12% from 2012 to 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).

The amount of energy used per square foot decreased in commercial buildings overall, particularly in buildings used for inpatient health care, offices, and education. Electricity consumption per square foot decreased by 14%, and natural gas consumption per square foot decreased by 11% from 2012 to 2018.

Other notable takeaways from preliminary consumption and expenditures data in 2018 include:

  • Electricity and natural gas continued to be the main energy sources for commercial buildings and together accounted for 94% of total energy consumed in the commercial sector in 2018.
  • Commercial buildings spent $142 billion on energy in 2018, averaging $1.47 per square foot.
  • Large buildings (over 100,000 square feet) were few in number but accounted for over one-third of the total energy consumed by commercial buildings.
  • Food service, food sales, and inpatient health care buildings consumed the most energy per square foot.
  • Buildings constructed since 2000 consumed more energy per square foot on average and were larger than older buildings.
  • The amount of electricity used per square foot was higher in hotter climates, and the amount of natural gas used per square foot was higher in colder climates.

The CBECS data tables released today include total energy, electricity, and natural gas consumed by U.S. commercial buildings in 2018. Preliminary energy consumption and expenditure totals and intensities are provided by numerous building characteristics, including geographic region, building activity, size and age, employment and occupancy, energy sources used, and energy-related equipment. The 2018 CBECS preliminary consumption and expenditures data tables and flipbook are available on the EIA website.

EIA will publish final 2018 CBECS data in December 2022. This data release will include end-use data estimates for energy consumed for space heating, cooling, ventilation, water heating, lighting, cooking, refrigeration, office equipment, and computing.

CBECS is the only independent, statistically representative source for the characteristics and energy use of commercial building in the United States. EIA collects data for commercial buildings through in-person or web surveys. Respondents, such as building owners and managers, completed the survey at 6,436 buildings for the 2018 CBECS, representing 5.9 million buildings in the United States. EIA also collected energy usage data from suppliers of electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, and district heat.

The product described in this press release was prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. By law, EIA’s data, analysis, and forecasts are independent of approval by any other officer or employee of the U.S. government. The views in the product and press release therefore should not be construed as representing those of the U.S. Department of Energy or other federal agencies.

EIA Press Contact: Morgan Butterfield, EIAMedia@eia.gov