What Uses The Most Energy In A Building?




In 2012, in the United States, about 5.6 million commercial buildings had a total of about 87.1 billion square feet of floor space. Five styles of commercial buildings constituted 53 percent of all commercial buildings and had 62 percent of the total floor space of commercial buildings: retail (including commercial and service buildings), office, school, healthcare, and lodging. Of all commercial buildings, these types of buildings often use the most resources.


Office equipment contributed to the increase in the consumption of electricity

Between 1979 and 2012, the rise in the use of electricity in commercial buildings was attributed to the expanded usage of existing electrical equipment and the introduction of new types of electrical equipment. Computers (desktops, computers and servers), office equipment (printers, copiers and fax machines), telecommunications equipment and medical testing and monitoring equipment are included in the new equipment. In addition to the electricity directly consumed by the equipment, the equipment can also require additional cooling and ventilation electricity consumption.


The main single use of electricity in commercial buildings is lighting.

Lighting is the main end-use of electricity in commercial buildings and, by energy-efficient light sources and advanced lighting technologies, many buildings target lighting for energy savings. There is some form of lighting in almost all commercial buildings. Warehouses and abandoned buildings are examples of buildings without lighting.


Large commercial buildings use the most energy.

Approximately 88% of commercial buildings in the United States had less than 25,000 square feet of floor space each in 2012, but they accounted for only about 32% of the total energy use of commercial buildings.

Larger commercial buildings, unlike smaller commercial buildings, have a much larger share of the overall energy consumption of commercial buildings than their share of the total number of commercial buildings. Less than 1 percent of buildings were greater than 200,000 square feet in 2012, but these buildings accounted for about 26 percent of overall energy consumption for commercial buildings. In 2012, about 11 percent of commercial buildings were between 25,000 square feet and 200,000 square feet, and these buildings accounted for about 42 percent of commercial buildings’ overall energy consumption.



Commercial buildings in the South U.S. Census region have the most floorspace and use more energy than other regions.

In the South U.S. Census area, the total floorspace of commercial buildings was 34.3 billion square feet in 2012. Significant fuel consumption in these systems amounted to approximately 2.6 billion British thermal units (Btu).


Energy use by type of building.

Mercantile and service buildings consume the most overall energy of all the commercial building styles. Offices, schools, health care and accommodation services, food establishments, and many others are other commercial consumers of electricity.

The top five energy-consuming building categories used about half of the energy consumed by all commercial buildings in 2012, and they include the following types of buildings:

Mercantile and service (15% of total energy consumed by commercial buildings)

  • Malls and stores
  • Car dealerships
  • Dry cleaners
  • Gas stations

Office (14% of consumption)

  • Professional and government offices
  • Banks

Education (10% of consumption)

  • Elementary, middle, and high school
  • Colleges

Health care (8% of consumption)

  • Hospitals
  • Medical offices

Lodging (6% of consumption)

  • Hotels
  • Dormitories
  • Nursing homes

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