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U.S. commercial buildings decreased energy use intensity from 2012 to 2018

Building Team

U.S. commercial buildings decreased energy use intensity from 2012 to 2018

The 12% decline indicates efficiency measures are having an impact.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | November 7, 2022
Commercial Buildings Energy
Courtesy Pexels.

The recently released 2018 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that the total floorspace in commercial buildings has increased but energy consumption has not, compared with the last survey analyzing the landscape in 2012.

This difference indicates that the consumption per square foot (energy intensity) has decreased, which means that its efficiency has likely increased. The 2018 data showed a decrease in energy intensity of 12% since 2012, from 80,000 Btu per square foot to 70,600 Btu per square foot. Between 2012 and 2018, electricity intensity decreased 14%, and natural gas intensity decreased 11%.

Inpatient healthcare buildings had a 16% decrease in energy intensity in what was the largest change of any building type. Despite this decrease, though, inpatient healthcare buildings were still among the most energy-intensive types of buildings, along with food sales and food service.

Warehouses—the most common commercial building type as of 2018—were among the least energy-intensive building types, along with vacant buildings and those used for religious worship. Decreases in energy intensity are driven by improvements in building operations, materials, and design, as well as heating, cooling, and lighting technologies. Use of highly efficient LED lighting has spiked from 9% of commercial buildings in 2012 to 44% in 2018.

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