How do we compare?

Comparing Commercial and Institutional Energy Use

As a numbers guy I love statistics, so when I was sent NrCan’s (Natural Resources Canada) Survey of Commercial and Institutional Energy Use (SCIEU) report I read through it immediately.   I’m going to dive right in and spit out some facts so if you are allergic to numbers, beware!

There are over 585,000 commercial and institutional buildings in Canada, of which 27,601 are religious organizations – not a small number.  The average floor area of a religious organization’s building is 1908 sq. m. (20,538 sq. ft.).  The really interesting fact, is that the energy use intensity (EUI) of religious organization buildings is 0.66 GJ/sq. m. (17 kWh/sq. ft.).   This is the lowest of the 11 sectors in the survey, and well below the 1.28 GJ/sq. m. (33 kWh/sq. ft.) average of these sectors.

(Here’s the report link: http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/publications/statistics/scieu09/SCIEU2009Establishments.pdf )

What does this mean?  That faith buildings actually come in lower than all other commercial groups in terms of energy use per square foot.

This surprised me, mostly because of the age of faith community buildings and the energy required to heat these spaces.  Many of our Green Audits are in 100+ year old Churches with minimal to no insulation, single paned windows and 30 year old boilers.  But when you think about it, many faith buildings are used sparingly and are not full of the high energy use equipment used by other groups like hotels, restaurants or hospitals, so that does make some sense.

Using the metrics above, a 20,538 sq. ft. faith building, will consume 349,169 kWh of energy annually (heating and electricity combined).   And when you add up all of the 27,601 religious buildings, each at 20,538 sq. ft., they will consume a total of 9,637,413,569 kWh annually.  This is enough energy for over 330,000 homes in Canada.  Church(2)

So, with all that said, can faith buildings truly be compared using Energy Use Intensity with other commercial institutions?   Can wesay that faith buildings are more efficient than a hospital, or a hotel because of this number?  EUI is a factor of energy and area and yes, faith buildings do relatively well with that statistic vs. other commercial buildings.  What about energy in relation to space usage, or occupancy rates?  Considering that most faith buildings are fully occupied only once a week for a few hours, and only partially occupied the rest of the week, I’m sure these numbers would tell a different story and I wish I had the numbers to prove it.

In the end, this report actually raises more questions than it answers for me; not because there is anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t factor in all the information I think is required.  What are your thoughts?  I would love to hear from you, or if you have come across other reports or statistics that speak to the state of energy use in religious organizations.

David Patterson