Building Efficiency in Commercial vs. Residential Properties

building efficiency.

Building Efficiency is the optimal use of energy, water, heat, and other resources in a commercial or personal household. Higher efficiency means better living style, functionality, and the overall performance of buildings.

When a building has advanced construction and uses modern technology, it ultimately helps minimizing the resources. This further leads to lesser electricity and energy bills with almost no harmful impact on the environment.

If you want to dig deeper and know more about building efficiency, the following is a comparison between commercial and residential properties. Keep reading to learn how energy consumption and structural differences differ in both of these building types to enhance the building efficiency effectively.

1. Defining Building Efficiency

When you measure the usage of energy resources in a building, you are measuring its efficiency. The key metrics involved in measuring a building’s efficiency are,

  • Energy Use Intensity (EUI) – EUI measures the total amount of energy consumed by a building. This measurement is based on the size of the building and is usually represented i per square foot per year.
  • Carbon Footprint – When you calculate the total emissions of greenhouse gases happening in the building, the metric you refer to is Carbon Footprint. An auditor has to consider all the energy sources, their usage, and their emissions to assess metric tons of CO2 per year.

2. Structural Differences

The structure and making of commercial and residential buildings are different to a great extent. Commercial buildings are typically larger in terms of size. Thus, their design also includes larger spaces, atriums and multiple rooms. The material used in these buildings is typically steel, concrete and glass as they support large structures. Other than this, the heating and cooling systems of such buildings are also complex as compared to small homes or residential buildings.

Residential buildings are not only smaller in size but also have many other structural, design, and energy-usage differences. The residential buildings can range from one house to multiple-family apartments. Their design and structure focus on comfort as it contains multiple rooms; each for a different purpose. The materials preferred for the construction of these buildings are wood, bricks, and drywall. The purpose of such material is to install insulation and appeal into the building. The HVAC, lighting systems, and other energy-efficient systems used in these buildings are specifically designed for individual or family use.

3. Energy Consumption Patterns

Now when it comes to energy consumption patterns, both buildings have completely different approaches. Larger-sized commercial structures demand more energy as they need it for heating, cooling, lighting, and other purposes. Whereas smaller-sized buildings do not have a high energy demand. However, maintaining the temperature in these buildings is comparatively harder due to different rooms and multiple floors.

The usage of materials in these buildings also contributes to their work. Steel and concrete need higher energy to regulate a certain temperature while residential buildings’ insulative material decreases this need.

The peak usage times for commercial buildings are typically the office hours (9 am to 5 pm). During the afternoon, this usage peaks as the building’s cooling loads increase. Other than heating and cooling, there is an excessive need for lighting at all times in commercial spaces. Electricity is another main energy consumption source as all the computers, copiers, and appliances are working at the same time.

In residential buildings, the peak hours are usually early mornings when everyone is getting ready for the day, evenings, and weekends. These hours vary based on the occupants’ schedules and lifestyle.

Comparatively, the energy usage is low as the lighting, appliances, and all other systems are used when everyone is around. The appliances in these buildings are mostly for comfort, including refrigerators, washing machines, entertainment, etc.

4. Heating and Cooling Systems

Commercial buildings usually own centralized systems for maintaining temperature in the entire building. Chillers and boilers are also preferred to keep chilled/hot water available at all times. Underfloor heating systems are also commonly installed. These systems can also be used in residential spaces. For example, central air conditioners use ducts to cool the entire house.

Decentralised systems can also be used in commercial buildings. These include split systems that provide cooling or heating to specific spaces and rooms. However, residential buildings usually prefer these. They use energy-efficient heaters, or portable AC units to maintain the temperature in specific areas.

If proper all-time temperature maintenance is required in a space, centralised systems are preferable. However, a lot of energy is required for their maintenance and a lot of it can be lost through ducts. If you want a more energy-efficient option, decentralised systems can work best as less energy is required and lost in it.

Proper maintenance and upgradation of these systems can help you improve building efficiency. Using remote or sensor control systems can really help in this regard.

5. Lighting Solutions

Lighting requirements differ a lot in commercial and residential buildings. Commercial buildings require lights at all times and almost everywhere. There must be proper task-oriented lighting along with proper lights in all the conference rooms, halls, and offices. For that, using efficient lighting options, including LEDs and smart lighting systems can help. If you are looking for energy-efficient options, you can simply choose larger lights in big spaces, and install specific task-oriented lights in the required spaces.

Residential buildings do not require lights everywhere at all times. Thus, using ambient lighting for specific spaces will be good enough. To create an inviting environment, using dimmers and smart controls can be great. They will also help increase the building efficiency by saving a lot of it.

When we talk about energy-efficient, natural lighting plays a crucial role in this regard. Make sure to incorporate this thought when designing a building. For instance, using huge windows, skylights, and glass doors in the buildings can help maximize the natural light entrance. That can save a lot in terms of lighting during the day.

6. Insulation and Building Envelope

Building envelope refers to the walls, roofs, doors, and windows of a building. It is the outer shell of any building. A well-sealed building envelope automatically leads to saving more energy.

The insulation materials preferred in commercial buildings are usually fibreglass, spray foam, rigid foam boards, and so on. All these materials are well-known for their insulation properties. Residential buildings also prefer some of these materials as they are also cost-effective and eco-friendly. Natural fiber installation is another great option for residential buildings. These materials can be installed in the outer walls, roofs, attics and also around openings of the buildings for the best results.

To find out what works best for your building, you can conduct an energy audit. That way, you will come across a lot of options to improve your building efficiency by reducing heat gain and preventing energy loss from different cracks or gaps.

7. Water Heating and Usage

In commercial buildings, centralized water heating is preferred. These buildings have a lot of bathrooms and other rooms where water is used. Using a specific water tank for each space will not be energy-efficient. Thus, centralized water heating is a way to go. Whereas, in residential buildings water tanks and specific heaters are used that only heat up a specific amount of water and are reliable for small spaces.

In case you want to improve the building efficiency, you can prefer low-flow fixtures and tankless water heaters in your buildings. Low-flow fixtures are specifically designed to save water while not having any effect on the flow or efficiency. Tankless fixtures heat up the water on the go and are reliable for avoiding standby losses.

Incorporating efficient water heating systems in the building saves a lot of energy. Not having to keep heating water all the time and losing energy in this process is a way to go. Using water-saving techniques and products can ultimately improve building efficiency.

8. Smart Technologies and Automation

Recently, smart tech has come to light. It plays a significant role in enhancing building efficiency. Lights with sensor control only lighten up when needed. Appliances that can be controlled via remotes are easy to access and can be used according to the need only. This saves a lot of energy and electricity in the long run.

The adoption rate relies completely on the occupant’s preferences in residential buildings. However, commercial buildings move more rapidly towards it as they are more driven to save energy and enhance tenant experience. Implementing Building Management Systems, including HVAC, lighting, security, etc. in the buildings optimize the overall performance and efficiency of a space.

Different smart systems that you can incorporate in your buildings are smart lights, thermostats to maintain temperature according to the outer climate, and other building management systems that come with sensors and smart operators.

9. Regulatory and Financial Incentives

Regulatory Stanford is well-known for improving building efficiency in both commercial and residential buildings. LEED and Energy Star are the most commonly known in this regard. LEED is a program that promotes sustainability and thus, ultimately, improves efficiency through better building design and construction. Energy Star is a program presented by the US EPA to set the standards for energy efficiency in different spaces.

These programs and financial incentives are available for maintaining high energy performance and sustainability. There are new sections introduced where tax deductions are provided for commercial buildings that thrive for energy efficiency.


Both commercial and residential buildings share similarities as well as differences when it comes to consuming energy. Their usage patterns are completely different from each other. However, energy consumption and technological advancements are quite similar in both areas.

Addressing the specific needs of both these buildings can improve building efficiency. It can also save a lot of energy by maximizing HVAC systems and using advanced technology.


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