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Engineers, designers, and building owners who want to save energy in their commercial building projects would do well to focus on their HVAC systems.

A recent survey by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds that two-thirds of the energy consumed in commercial buildings is used for heating, cooling, ventilation and refrigeration.

Space heating consumes the most energy, 38% of the total used. Water heating uses 8% of the total, cooling and ventilation consume 7% each, while refrigeration uses another 6%.

Lighting was the second biggest energy consumer at 20%. Office equipment, personal computers, cooking and miscellaneous uses accounted for the balance, some 16%.

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) collected information on buildings greater than 1,000 sq. ft. with more than 50% of their floor space devoted to commercial activity. The most recent survey, 2003, is the eighth in a series begun in 1979.

The 2003 CBECS found that:
  • There were more than 4.9 million commercial buildings in the U.S.
  • They comprised more than 71.6 billion square feet of floor space.
  • They consumed more than 6,500 trillion Btu's of energy.

Electricity was the primary form of energy used—55%. Natural gas was second, at 32%. District heat accounted for 10% and fuel oil just 3%.

Click here to download the complete report.