WASHINGTON — New commercial buildings are larger than they were a decade ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).

CBECS estimates there were 5.6 million commercial buildings in the U.S. in 2012, totaling 87 billion square feet of floor space. This level represents a 14 percent increase in the number of buildings and a 21 percent increase in floor space since 2003, the last year for which CBECS results are available.

Buildings constructed before 1960 (26 percent of the commercial building stock) averaged 12,000 square feet, buildings built between 1960 and 1999 (55 percent) averaged 16,300 square feet, and buildings constructed in the 2000s (18 percent) averaged 19,000 square feet.

Average building size has increased within a few building types in particular, reflecting changes in consumers’ needs and wants.

Four building types showed a statistically significant increase in building size when comparing buildings built before 1960 with those constructed in the 2000s: Health care buildings are getting larger, most likely to meet the needs of a population whose average life expectancy continues to increase, and the size of lodging buildings increases substantially across vintages. Growing numbers of both leisure and business travelers led to the construction of larger hotels; retail (other than shopping mall) buildings — a subset of the mercantile category, which includes malls — are larger, likely a result of the trend toward big-box stores; and religious worship buildings are also larger, possibly attributable to a growing number of megachurches, which have become more popular in the U.S. over the past two decades.

EIA’s CBECS offers nationally representative data collection for building characteristics and energy use in commercial buildings. Information about the commercial building stock in 2012 is now being released, and energy-use information is expected later this year.

Publication date: 6/8/2015 

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