EIA: Size of Commercial Buildings Continues to Grow

EIAIncreases in the size of commercial buildings have outpaced increases in the number of those buildings over the past decade, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).

CBECS estimates that there were 5.6 million commercial buildings in the United States 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.

Newer buildings tend to be larger than older buildings. The average size of buildings constructed before 1960 (26 percent of the commercial building stock) is 12,000 square feet; buildings constructed between 1960 and 1999 (55 percent) average 16,300 square feet; and buildings constructed in the 2000s (18 percent) average 19,000 square feet.

Average building size has increased within a few buildings 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:

  1. Health care buildings are getting larger, most likely to meet the needs of a population whose average life expectancy continues to increase.
  2. The size of lodging buildings increases substantially across vintages. Growing numbers of both leisure and business travelers led to the construction of larger hotels.
  3. 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.
  4. Religious worship buildings are also larger, possibly attributable to a growing number of megachurches, which have become more popular in the United States over the past two decades.
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