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Federal Government Seeks Low Carb(on) Diet for Most Construction Materials

October 7, 2022

On October 4, 2022, the General Services Administration (“GSA”) published a Request for Information (“RFI”), seeking information “about the availability of domestically manufactured, locally sourced low-carbon construction materials” for governmentwide construction procurement.  Significantly, the results of the RFI are expected to help inform how the GSA will spend the $2.15 billion appropriated through Section 60503 of the Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) to “acquire and install materials and products for use in the construction or alteration of buildings” under the GSA’s jurisdiction “that have substantially lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions associated with all relevant stages of production, use, and disposal as compared to estimated industry averages of similar materials or products[.]”

Building on GSA’s previous efforts to implement new “low embodied carbon” concrete and “environmentally preferable” asphalt used in GSA construction and building projects (covered here), the Administration is seeking to expand its Buy Clean Initiative to most carbon-intensive materials – including, concrete, steel, glass, asphalt, aluminum, insulation, roofing materials, gypsum board, and structural engineered wood –  used in the construction of buildings, roads, and bridges.  GSA has divided these materials into three tiers of descending order of priority, with Tier 1 materials (concrete, steel, glass, and asphalt) as the “most carbon intensive materials,” followed by Tier 2 (aluminum, insulation, and roofing materials) and, finally, Tier 3 (structural engineered wood). 

Specifically, GSA is requesting public comments on the following questions:

  • What strategies have you used to lower the embodied carbon of your products or materials?
  • If your company currently produces construction materials or products that are lower in embodied carbon, approximately what percentage of your construction material sales are currently for lower embodied carbon products?
  • Do you currently offer construction materials or products . . . that are substantially -- and demonstrably -- lower in embodied carbon, compared to industry averages for similar materials or products?
  • Does your company currently track GHG emissions from the manufacturing process?
  • If yes, has it developed a product-specific EPD for any of your construction materials or products?  And, if yes, which one(s)?  If no, how do you measure and document lower embodied carbon, compared to industry averages?
  • How does the cost of your company’s lower embodied carbon materials or products compare to that of conventional equivalents used to serve the same purpose?
  • Has your company or its customers or users experienced any quality, workability, or durability challenges with lower embodied carbon construction materials and products? And, what if any, are the technical, economic, or regulatory obstacles to reducing the embodied carbon of more of your materials or products?

Federal construction contractors should follow this action closely as it represents the Administration’s boldest action to date to limit the types of building materials that it will procure on a governmentwide scale.  And now with more than $2 billion in federal funding available, significant opportunities await those construction contractors able to assist the GSA in its pursuit of the emissions reduction objectives established through Executive Order 14057.  

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
Email: pfreeman@crowell.com
Issac D. Schabes
Associate – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1.202.654.6706
Email: ischabes@crowell.com