Survey Reveals Changing Building Trends

CBECS tracks changes in building stock and energy usage


The first results from the new Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) show growth in building stock and size, two attributes that contribute to changes in commercial energy use.

Released this year, the 10th iteration of this national sample survey examines changes between 2003 and 2012. Since its inception in 1979, building size has grown faster than building stock, with the amount of commercial floor space rising from 51 billion to 87 billion square feet (see below). The number of buildings increased at a slower pace, rising from 3.8 million to 5.6 million.

This trend held true through the last nine years, with building stock growing by 14% and floor space rising 22% over that period.

Lodging, education, and healthcare have the largest buildings on average, but the highest percentage of growth was seen in vacant buildings and facilities classified as “other types of buildings,” including airplane hangars, laboratories, and data centers.

The study also revealed a middle-aged commercial building stock, with about half of all buildings constructed at least 35 years ago. However, there are more buildings constructed in the 2000s than ones built prior to 1946. The average size of new buildings has also grown since then; buildings constructed before 1960 occupy an average of 12,000 square feet, while ones built between 1960 and 1999 average 16,300 square feet and 2000-era buildings average 19,100.


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