The Green Living Guy

by Steven Nadel, Executive Director

Data recently released as part of the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) highlights changes in commercial sector energy demand between 2003 and 2012. The Energy Information Administration conducts CBECS approximately every five years and examines in depth a nationally representative sample of thousands of commercial buildings.  Overall, energy use per square foot of floor area is down by 12%. Great strides have been made in reducing energy use for lighting and space heating. Regarding space heating, the reduction is due to both greater use of energy-saving technologies and practices and higher growth in building floor area in the south, which accounted for 39% of commercial building floor area in 2012, up from 37% in 2003.

But it is also notable that some building power end-uses have gone up over the past decade. Energy use for computers, office equipment, and “other” uses is up. See the figure below, which highlights changes in energy use since 2003 by end-use. Use for cooking and refrigeration is also up, mirroring the growth in the food service and food store sectors. We’re eating out more and buying more prepared and refrigerated foods. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that food store employment has been up 12.7% over the past decade. That’s more than double the growth in all employment.

Moreover, cooling and ventilation power use are also up. The growth in cooling is very modest. That’s given the fact that CBECS found that 45% of all commercial new construction since 2003 has been in the south, where cooling needs are particularly high…

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