Based on the panel’s research—and, in particular, on discussions with data users—two topics emerged as priority areas for both surveys: (1) the timeliness and frequency of the data and (2) data gaps. The panel concluded that the frequency of the surveys does not meet data user needs well and that the length of time it takes to process and prepare the data for release is a particular concern for many data users. The panel also identified a variety of data gaps, some of which are related to EIA’s inability to release all of the data collected because the sample sizes are too small to produce data that meet quality and confidentiality thresholds. In some cases, data users would like more detailed information about building characteristics and energy consumption than what the surveys currently collect or would like new measures added to the questionnaires to capture new topics of interest, such as new end uses.

The panel’s main recommendations, which are briefly discussed below, focus on addressing the two priority areas mentioned, in the context of additional important considerations for the surveys, such as data quality and costs. The main recommendations, some of which involve major changes to the survey designs, are described first, followed by additional recommendations that address more specific, technical aspects of the data collections.

COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS ENERGY CONSUMPTION SURVEY

Timeliness and Frequency of the CBECS Data

The panel’s research, which included discussions with data users, found that one of the biggest concerns related to the surveys is the amount of time it takes to collect, process, and release the data. One option for addressing data users’ need for quicker access to data is to implement a rotating sample design by, for example, dividing the full sample into four subsamples and collecting a quarter of the data each year over a four-year period instead of collecting data from the entire sample once every four years. This change would enable annual data releases for a subset of the sample.

Recommendation CBECS-1: EIA should evaluate the usefulness of implementing a rotating sample design for the CBECS to improve the timeliness of the data.

Another way to shorten the time required for the survey would be to move some of the CBECS data collection from face-to-face interviews to



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