GSA tests low embodied carbon construction material requirements

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Sources: U.S. General Services Administration; CMCM staff

The U.S. General Services Administration has commenced a six-month procurement pilot 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—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. EPDs are a key tool for gaining visibility into a product’s environmental impacts through its entire lifetime in a standard, third party-verified format, and they are commonly used in Buy Clean programs. 

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 data is available in the market, GSA plans to establish GWP limits for individual manufacturing processes.

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

The 11-project, IRA/EPD announcement, notes GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan, “Marks a major step forward in our efforts to use the federal government’s buying power to catalyze innovation and strengthen American leadership in clean manufacturing and jobs. We look forward to acting on what we learn from this pilot to achieve the sustainability triple-win of good jobs, value for taxpayers and a healthier planet for future generations.”