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Commercial Reference Buildings

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 Name Floor Area (ft2) Number of Floors
Large Office 498,588 12
Medium Office 53,628 3
Small Office 5,500 1
Warehouse 52,045 1
Stand-alone Retail 24,962 1
Strip Mall 22,500 1
Primary School 73,960 1
Secondary School 210,887 2
Supermarket 45,000 1
Quick Service Restaurant 2,500 1
Full Service Restaurant 5,500 1
Hospital 241,351 5
Outpatient Health Care 40,946 3
Small Hotel 43,200 4
Large Hotel 122,120 6
Midrise Apartment 33,740 4

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

Climate Zone Representative City
1A Miami, Florida
2A Houston, Texas
2B Phoenix, Arizona
3A Atlanta, Georgia
3B-Coast Los Angeles, California
3B Las Vegas, Nevada
3C San Francisco, California
4A Baltimore, Maryland
4B Albuquerque, New Mexico
4C Seattle, Washington
5A Chicago, Illinois
5B Boulder, Colorado
6A Minneapolis, Minnesota
6B Helena, Montana
7 Duluth, Minnesota
8 Fairbanks, Alaska

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