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GSA Takes “Concrete” Efforts Towards Implementing Buy Clean Construction Policies

February 15, 2022

The General Services Administration (GSA) published today two Requests for Information (RFIs) soliciting input on the availability and barriers to production of “low embodied carbon concrete mixes” and “environmentally-preferable asphalt mixes” for upcoming infrastructure projects at ports of entry along the U.S. northern and southern borders.  These actions build upon the December 8, 2021 Executive Order 14057, “Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability,” discussed here, which directed GSA, among other things, to use federal procurement policy as a way to increase the production of cleanly manufactured construction materials.  

For purposes of the RFIs, “low embodied carbon concrete” is defined as concrete with lower “greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction, production, transport, and manufacturing of materials”; whereas “environmentally-preferable asphalt” refers to asphalt with reduced global warming potential, including, but not limited to, “at least 20% recycled pavement content, warm-mix (reduced temperature) installation capability, bio-based binders or reduced petroleum content, [and] low embodied carbon.”

Manufacturers, resellers and retailers, both big and small businesses, are requested to provide feedback on the following questions pertaining to both concrete and asphalt:

  • Has your company developed a product-specific cradle-to-gate environmental product declaration (EPD) for any of its concrete/asphalt mixes?  How do you generate EPDs, or non-EPD documentation of attributes such as embodied carbon?  Has your company received more business interest after investing in an EPD?
  • Is your company aware of market demand for low embodied carbon concrete/asphalt?  What, if any, embodied carbon reduction strategies do you use (e.g. EPDs from suppliers, plant energy efficiency, or alternative ingredients)?  Do you have dedicated or specialized sustainability staff?
  • Does your company currently produce or supply low embodied carbon concrete/environmentally-preferable asphalt?  How does the cost compare to conventional equivalents?  Do you currently offer concrete/asphalt with innovative or outstanding environmental or performance attributes?
  • What, if any, are the technical, economic, or regulatory obstacles to reducing the embodied carbon of your product?  Any suggestions to help the industry reduce concrete/asphalt manufacturing’s carbon footprint?
  • Is the strength and durability of your products tested using standard methods from ASTM International or the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials?  Has your company experienced quality, workability, or durability challenges with low embodied carbon concrete/environmentally-preferable asphalt?  Please share any implementation lessons learned or best practices.
  • Please identify each state where your company is able to provide low embodied carbon concrete/environmentally-preferable asphalt. Are you able to provide your product to remote areas of the states that you supply?
  • Is your company’s concrete/asphalt typically used on construction sites within 100 miles from your plants?  Are measures like mobile concrete/asphalt batching plants typically employed when your products are used at remote sites?  Have you generated an EPD for a mix produced at a mobile plant?

GSA intends to move quickly, as indicated by the short 15-day window for RFI responses.  The White House, in a fact sheet also released today, emphasized that over the coming weeks, GSA intends to use the responses to these RFIs to “shape the launch of national low-carbon concrete and sustainable asphalt standards for Land Port of Entry projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.” 

While today’s actions are specifically geared towards concrete and asphalt, all federal contractors – regardless of industry – should closely follow these developments, particularly as the federal government seeks to broaden its effort to leverage procurement policy to address climate change.  This is especially true as the federal government may seek to utilize GSA’s embodied carbon reduction approach as a model for procurements beyond the deployment of these specific categories of new infrastructure funds.

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

Paul Freeman
Partner – New York
Phone: +1.212.895.4251
Byron R. Brown
Senior Counsel – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.624.2546
Issac D. Schabes
Associate – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.654.6706