Agency pilots low embodied carbon material requirements

The U.S. General Services Administration has commenced a six-month procurement program to test Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) submittal requirements for asphalt, concrete, glass and steel specified in 11 Inflation Reduction Act-backed building or paving projects. The pilot will generate insights into regional market availability of qualifying products and materials, and inform adjustments that may be needed for a final set of material requirements on GSA projects receiving IRA funds.

GSA interim requirements are based on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Interim Determination setting limits for global warming potential (GWP)—a principal EPD metric commonly expressed as kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per standardized unit of material measure—attending the most carbon-intensive materials prioritized by the federal interagency Buy Clean Task Force. The pilot signals to producers, suppliers and manufacturers that GSA requires EPDs for materials procured using IRA funding. Declarations are a key tool for gaining environmental impact visibility through a product’s entire lifetime in a standard, third party-verified format, and are common in federal, state or local in Buy Clean initiatives. 

Producers or manufacturers behind certain product categories, such as hollow structural sections and structural steel plate produced in integrated steel mills, have not yet published EPDs, so the GSA pilot provides additional time for stakeholders to gather and publish data. Once adequate figures are available in the market, GSA plans to establish GWP limits for individual manufacturing processes.

Procurement pilot requirements were developed with market insights from domestic manufacturers, local suppliers, small businesses, and environmental or labor groups. The IRA provides $3.375 billion for GSA to invest in federal buildings to help reduce carbon emissions and spur new construction specifications and practices. The Act includes $2.15 billion to procure low embodied carbon materials for construction and renovation projects. 

Concurrent with the low carbon construction material procurement pilot, GSA opened its biennial Construction Awards program to entries. The program honors outstanding achievements in construction, with a focus on quality and craftsmanship, collaboration and team dynamics, sustainability, innovation, and technology. The first Construction Awards ceremony will take place in 2024. (The longstanding GSA Design Awards ceremony, which took place earlier this year, will continue to occur in odd years.) From small to large projects, from limited scope repairs and alterations to new construction projects, GSA will consider projects that resulted in highly successful outcomes while delivering best value and demonstrating excellent practice of the following core values: safety, construction quality and craftsmanship, collaboration and team dynamics, sustainability, innovation, and technology.

Entries can be submitted for three main categories: Capital Projects, Small Projects, and Alternative Financing Projects. Team members who best exemplify construction excellence in the delivery of GSA projects will be publicly celebrated at the biennial GSA Construction Awards Ceremony.