Research Output
A New Estimate of Building Floor Space in North America
  Floor space is a key variable used to understand the energy and material demands of buildings. Using recent datasets of building footprints, we employ a random forest regression model to estimate the floor space of the North American building stock. Our estimate for floor space in 2016 is 88,033 (+15,907 / -21,861) million m2—which is 2.9 times higher than current estimates from national statistics offices. We also show how floor space per capita (m2 cap-1) is not constant across the North American region, highlighting the heterogeneous nature of building stocks. As a critical variable in integrated assessment models to project energy and material demands, this result suggests the following: (1) the North American building stock is more energy efficient than previously realized, suggesting that buildings are underutilized, (2) the embodied environmental impacts of buildings have been underestimated in comparison to operational impacts, and (3) the near-term demand for floor space and, consequently, the future demand for materials and energy have been largely underestimated.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 March 2021

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Arehart, J. H., Pomponi, F., D'Amico, B., & Srubar III, W. V. (2021). A New Estimate of Building Floor Space in North America. Environmental Science and Technology, 55(8), 5161-5170.



floor space; building stock; North America; machine learning

Monthly Views:

Available Documents