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Understanding Building Energy Use: Key Metrics and Drivers

Updated: May 28

Buildings consume a significant amount of energy, making up a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding building energy use is therefore critical to reducing energy consumption and mitigating climate change. In this blog, we will discuss key metrics and drivers of building energy use and how they impact energy consumption in buildings.

Key Metrics of Building Energy Use

There are several key metrics for measuring building energy use. These include:

  1. Energy Intensity: Energy intensity is the amount of energy consumed per unit of floor area. It is calculated by dividing the total energy consumption by the floor area of the building. Energy intensity is a useful metric for comparing energy performance between buildings of different sizes and types.

  2. Energy Use Intensity (EUI): EUI is similar to energy intensity, but it takes into account the climate zone and building type. EUI is calculated by dividing the total energy consumption by the total floor area and the number of days in a year. EUI is a widely used metric for benchmarking building energy performance.

  3. Peak Demand: Peak demand is the highest amount of electricity consumed by a building at any given time. Peak demand is important because it determines the size of the electrical infrastructure required to serve the building.

  4. Load Factor: Load factor is the ratio of actual energy consumption to the maximum energy consumption. It indicates how efficiently a building is using energy. A high load factor means that a building is using energy efficiently, while a low load factor indicates inefficiency.

Drivers of Building Energy Use

There are several drivers of building energy use, including:

  1. Building Envelope: The building envelope includes the walls, roof, and windows, and it is the primary interface between the interior and exterior of a building. The building envelope has a significant impact on energy consumption, as it affects heating and cooling loads.

  2. HVAC Systems: Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are responsible for a significant portion of building energy consumption. HVAC systems can be inefficient if they are not properly sized or maintained.

  3. Lighting: Lighting is another significant driver of building energy use. Energy-efficient lighting technologies such as LED bulbs can significantly reduce energy consumption.

  4. Plug Loads: Plug loads refer to the energy consumed by devices that are plugged into electrical outlets, such as computers, printers, and chargers. Plug loads can be a significant contributor to energy consumption in buildings.


In conclusion, understanding building energy use is critical to reducing energy consumption and mitigating climate change. Key metrics such as energy intensity and EUI can be used to benchmark building energy performance, while drivers such as the building envelope, HVAC systems, lighting, and plug loads have a significant impact on energy consumption. By addressing these drivers and improving energy efficiency in buildings, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable future.


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