Commercial floor space is expected to increase significantly over the next 30 years in the United States, while energy use rises at a slower pace, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The EIA expects the increased use of commercial building sensors and controls over time along with other factors, including energy efficiency gains and warmer weather, to contribute to a decline in commercial energy consumption to meet heating, ventilation and lighting demand. Other commercial energy uses are projected to rise. The EIA projects an 8% decline in the energy intensity of commercial buildings by 2050. Energy intensity is a measure of energy consumed per square foot of floor space.
Between 2020 and 2050, commercial floor space is expected to increase by 33%, while total commercial energy use rises by 22%. Offices, retail and service buildings, and schools account for half of U.S. commercial floor space. These three building types consumed two-thirds of all energy used to heat commercial buildings in 2020.
By 2050, all U.S. commercial buildings are expected to use 6% less energy for heating, according to the EIA. Over the next 30 years, office floor space is expected to increase by 5 billion square feet. The increased use of HVAC sensors and controls is projected to contribute to a 13% decrease in energy consumption to heat offices, and this would be the largest decline in energy consumption for any single use among all commercial building types. Also by 2050, the second-largest decline in heating energy consumption is expected to be in retail and service spaces — a 9% decrease.
All commercial buildings are expected to require less energy to ventilate growing floor space by 2050. Schools, hotels and lodging buildings, which include dormitories, are projected to reduce energy consumption for ventilation by 25%.
The increased use of lighting controls, such as dimmers and automatic switches, is expected to reduce energy consumption to light commercial spaces. Efficiency improvements should also lead to decreased energy consumption for lighting. As energy-efficient LEDs are expected to replace existing lighting technologies, commercial buildings will use 36% less energy from lighting in 2050 than in 2020.
U.S. energy consumption for air conditioning, mostly electricity, is projected to rise by 29% between 2020 and 2050. Offices consume more energy to cool buildings than any other commercial building type. Warmer weather and population migrations to warmer areas of the country are expected to contribute to increases in energy consumption for air conditioning. These increases offset energy efficiency gains as older cooling equipment is replaced by more energy-efficient models.
Retail and service buildings are expected to use HVAC controls sooner than schools, hotels and buildings used for lodging, and offices, according to Leidos. HVAC sensors and controls can efficiently operate energy-consuming equipment in response to factors such as building occupancy, internal and external air temperature, and humidity and time-of-use considerations. Office buildings larger than 50,000 square feet will use lighting controls sooner than most other building types between 2020 and 2050.
The EIA’s projections for energy consumption and intensity include all energy sources, including purchased electricity and energy generated onsite from distributed generation resources such as solar photovoltaic panels and small-scale wind turbines.