Among the general building activities, lodging, education, and health care are the largest buildings, on average. The health care category's average is greatly affected by the size of inpatient health care buildings (i.e., hospitals), which have an average size of 247,700 square feet per building, compared to outpatient health care buildings, which have an average size of 12,100 square feet.
Figure 4 tracks changes in the building stock over the past 10 years by comparing the number of buildings for each principal building activity from 2003 to 2012. The highest percent of growth was in vacant buildings and other types of buildings, which includes buildings such as airplane hangars, laboratories and data centers. Warehouses, food service buildings, public assembly, and office buildings also increased between 2003 and 2012, while food sales buildings (e.g., grocery and convenience stores) showed a decrease,2 and mercantile (retail and malls) showed a decrease, although it is not statistically significant. Because CBECS is a sample survey, each estimate has sampling error associated with it, which should be considered when comparing estimates. See What is an RSE? and Estimation of Standard Errors for more information.
Size of buildings: Although there are relatively few very large buildings (over 100,000 square feet of floorspace), they account for more than one-third of total commercial building floorspace
Commercial buildings are often depicted showing a skyline of towering buildings. However, the vast majority of commercial buildings are relatively small. Just less than half of buildings are 5,000 square feet in size or smaller, and nearly three-fourths are 10,000 square feet or smaller. The median building size is 5,100 square feet (i.e., half the buildings are larger than this and half are smaller), while the average size is 15,700 square feet. The average is larger than the median because of the influence of a small number of very large buildings; buildings over 100,000 square feet make up only about 2% of the building count but about 35% of the total floorspace.
Year constructed: The commercial building stock is middle-aged, and newer buildings are larger than older ones
Commercial buildings remain in use for many decades. Although about 12% of commercial buildings (comprising 14% of commercial floorspace) were built in the past 10 years, the commercial building stock is still fairly old, with about half of all buildings constructed at least 35 years ago. However, in the existing building stock, there are more buildings built in the 2000s than buildings built prior to 1946.
Newer buildings tend to be larger than older buildings. The average building size for those constructed before 1960 is 12,000 square feet; buildings constructed between 1960 and 1999 average 16,300 square feet; and buildings constructed in the 2000s average 19,100 square feet. The differences between these average building sizes are statistically significant.
Census region and division (see map): The South has the most commercial buildings, but the Northeast has the largest commercial buildings
The South Census region, the most populous of the four Census regions, has the largest percentage of commercial buildings and commercial floorspace, with about 40% of both total buildings and floorspace. The Midwest and West regions each account for more than one-fifth of commercial buildings and floorspace.
Buildings in the Northeast region are, on average, 4,000 to 5,000 square feet larger than buildings in the other regions. The Northeast region includes the Middle Atlantic division (New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), where buildings average 22,400 square feet.