Carbon Emissions from the Commercial Building Sector: The Role of Climate, Quality, and Incentives

Published in Journal of Public Economics
Sustainable Real Estate

Commercial buildings play a major role in determining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, yet surprisingly little is known about the environmental performance of different buildings at a point in time or how the same buildings perform over time. By exploiting a unique panel of commercial buildings from a major electric utility, we study the association between a building’s electricity consumption and the physical attributes of buildings, lease incentive terms, indicators of human capital, and climatic conditions. We find that buildings that are newer and of higher quality consume more electricity, contrasting evidence for the residential sector. However, using our panel data set, we document that newer buildings are most resilient when exposed to hotter weather. Those buildings that have a building manager on site and whose tenants face a positive marginal cost for electricity also demonstrate a better environmental performance.



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