Energy savings results from small commercial building retrofits in the us

Rachael Sherman, Hariharan Naganathan, Kristen Parrish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Small commercial buildings, or those comprising less than 50,000 square feet of floor area, represent 94% of U.S commercial buildings by count and consume approximately 8% of the nation’s primary energy; as such, they represent a largely unexploited opportunity for energy savings. Small commercial buildings also represent a large economic market—the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) estimated the small commercial retrofit market at USD 35.6 billion. Despite the prominence of small commercial buildings and the economic opportunity for energy retrofits, many energy efficiency programs focus on large commercial buildings, and create efficiency solutions that do not meet the needs of the small commercial market. This paper presents an analysis of 34 small commercial case study projects that implemented energy efficiency retrofits. This paper contributes to the existing building retrofit body of knowledge in the following ways: (1) it identifies the decision criteria used by small commercial building stakeholders that decided to complete an energy retrofit; (2) it identifies the most commonly implemented efficiency measures in small commercial buildings, and discusses why this is the case; and (3) it provides empirical evidence about the efficacy of installing single energy efficiency measures (EEMs) compared to packages of EEMs in small commercial buildings by reporting verified energy savings. To the authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first to catalog decision criteria and energy savings for the existing small commercial buildings market, and this research illustrates that small commercial building decision-makers seem most motivated to retrofit their spaces by energy cost savings and operational concerns. Furthermore, small commercial building decision-makers opted to implement single-system retrofits in fifteen (15) of the thirty-four cases studied. Finally, this research documents the improved savings, in the small commercial buildings market, associated with a more integrated package of EEMs compared to a single-system approach, achieving approximately 10% energy savings for a single-system approach and more than 20% energy savings for integrated approaches. These savings translate to CO2 savings of 1,324,000 kgCO2 /year to 2,647,000 kgCO2 /year, respectively, assuming small commercial buildings are retrofit at a rate of 0.95% of the stock annually.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6207
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Energy efficiency
  • Retrofit
  • Small commercial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Optimization
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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