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The Building Technologies Office (BTO) works to identify and develop strategies and technologies to dramatically reduce commercial building energy consumption. BTO's commercial building efforts focus on highly innovative, cost-effective, energy saving measures—ones that promise large energy savings at cost-effective levels, but are underutilized by the market. These efforts are carried out in collaboration with researchers at national laboratories and partners within industry with the goal of dramatically reducing new and existing commercial building energy consumption. BTO's Multi-Year Program Plan for Fiscal Years 2016-2020 provides a roadmap of our strategies and goals for significantly reducing building energy use intensity.

Photo of a city's downtown, with lots of tall office buildings, and a river in the foreground.
On average, 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, which presents building owners and managers with a huge opportunity for operating cost savings. Credit: iStockphoto.

Aggressive Energy Savings Goals

BTO is targeting a 20% energy use reduction in commercial buildings by 2020, and even greater savings by 2030. To reach these goals, BTO engages building owners, builders, engineers, architects, contractors, manufacturers, and others to implement real-world energy saving opportunities.

Commercial Building Basics

Federal, state, and local governments as well as private companies, own, operate and use commercial buildings, which include all non-residential structures, as well as residential buildings of three stories or more. Commercial buildings are diverse in how they look and are used — they include everything from the corner dry cleaner to hospitals and college campuses to huge data centers and skyscrapers. There is more than 81 billion square feet of commercial floor space in the U.S. Laid out on one level, these buildings would cover Rhode Island two and a half times. Commercial buildings account for 36% of all U.S. electricity consumption and cost more than $190 billion in energy every year. They are also responsible for 18% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a primary greenhouse gas, and they consume more than 18%, or 18 quads, of U.S. primary energy—more than all of Canada's energy consumption. Reducing energy use in commercial buildings would have tremendous positive impact in our environment, energy security and would save money that can be used to help grow U.S. businesses. In addition, energy efficiency in commercial buildings creates good jobs in construction and technology, such as engineers, commissioning agents, energy managers and building operators.

Energy Savings Potential in Retrofit and New Buildings

The potential to reduce energy consumption in existing and new commercial buildings is enormous. On average, 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Understanding what drives companies to adopt efficiency improvements is the key to dramatically changing the energy use of commercial buildings. DOE funded the Business Case for Energy Efficient Building Retrofit and Renovation report, which provides insights on improving the energy consumption of existing buildings  and developing the business case to seize these opportunities.

New construction offers the chance to achieve even greater energy savings. In the Assessment of the Technical Potential for Achieving Net Zero-Energy Buildings in the Commercial Sector report, engineers evaluated the opportunities to significantly reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings.