Commercial Reference Buildings

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in conjunction with three of its national laboratories, developed commercial reference buildings, formerly known as commercial building benchmark models. These reference buildings play a critical role in the program's energy modeling software research by providing complete descriptions for whole building energy analysis using EnergyPlus simulation software.

There are 16 building types that represent approximately 70% of the commercial buildings in the U.S., according to the report published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory titled U.S. Department of Energy Commercial Reference Building Models of the National Building Stock. These modules provide a consistent baseline of comparison and improve the value of computer energy simulations using software such as EnergyPlus.

Available Reference Buildings

Commercial reference building models are available for the following categories:

Building Type and Climate Zone

DOE developed 16 reference building types that represent most commercial buildings across 16 locations, which represent all U.S. climate zones.

Building Type NameFloor Area (ft2)Number of Floors
Large Office498,58812
Medium Office53,6283
Small Office5,5001
Warehouse52,0451
Stand-alone Retail24,9621
Strip Mall22,5001
Primary School73,9601
Secondary School210,8872
Supermarket45,0001
Quick Service Restaurant2,5001
Full Service Restaurant5,5001
Hospital241,3515
Outpatient Health Care40,9463
Small Hotel43,2004
Large Hotel122,1206
Midrise Apartment33,7404

The 16 climate zones used to create the reference buildings are:

Climate ZoneRepresentative City
1AMiami, Florida
2AHouston, Texas
2BPhoenix, Arizona
3AAtlanta, Georgia
3B-CoastLos Angeles, California
3BLas Vegas, Nevada
3CSan Francisco, California
4ABaltimore, Maryland
4BAlbuquerque, New Mexico
4CSeattle, Washington
5AChicago, Illinois
5BBoulder, Colorado
6AMinneapolis, Minnesota
6BHelena, Montana
7Duluth, Minnesota
8Fairbanks, Alaska

 

Please send all questions and comments regarding the reference buildings to referencebuildings@nrel.gov.