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September 16, 2016

Recent energy intensity decline in government buildings exceeds commercial sector average

graph of average energy consumption per square foot, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

About 14% of commercial buildings in the United States are owned by a government agency at federal, state, and local levels. The latest data from EIA's Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) show these buildings have significantly reduced their energy intensity in recent years. From 2003 to 2012, the average energy intensity, or energy consumption per square foot, of government buildings decreased by 23%, from 105,300 British thermal units per square foot (Btu/sqft) to 81,200 Btu/sqft. Over the same period, the average energy intensity across all commercial buildings decreased by 12%, from 91,000 Btu/sqft to 80,000 Btu/sqft.

Governments at all levels have passed legislation or adopted specific goals and targets regarding energy use in both new and existing buildings. For example, a 2015 Executive Order requires a reduction in overall federal building energy intensity of 2.5% annually between 2015 and 2025. CBECS data highlight some of the specific actions building owners can take to help meet building energy reduction goals or requirements, such as monitoring energy use and upgrading key equipment. Building automation systems that automatically control lighting and heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) systems are present in about one in three government buildings, more than twice the rate as in nongovernment buildings. Formal energy management plans, which involve setting and regularly monitoring specific energy targets, are also significantly more common in government than in nongovernment buildings (27% and 8%, respectively).

graph of buildings with energy monitoring and upgrades, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

About 4% of government-owned buildings are federal, 24% are state, and the remaining 72% are local. While most federal buildings are office buildings or post offices (categorized by CBECS as service), the most prevalent type of state or local government building is schools. More than half of government buildings are located on multibuilding campuses, where energy management and purchasing are often centralized. Campuses may also have a central physical plant, with equipment like boilers, chillers, and generators serving multiple buildings, which is often more efficient and cost-effective than separate building-level equipment.

Principal contributor: Danni Mayclin