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The Federal Government is the largest purchaser in the world, with annual purchasing power of over $650 billion. To harness that procurement power to support low-carbon, made in America materials, President's Biden charged his Administration through his December 2021 Federal Sustainability Plan and Executive Order 14057 to launch a Buy Clean Task Force and initiative to promote use of low-carbon, made in America construction materials. Through Buy Clean, the Federal Government will for the first time prioritize the use of American-made, lower-carbon construction materials in Federal procurement and Federally-funded projects, which will advance America's industrial capacity to supply the goods and materials of the future while growing good jobs for American workers.
Established under Executive Order (E.O.) 14057 on Federal Sustainability, the Buy Clean Task Force is co-chaired by the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. The Task Force includes representatives from the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Interior, State and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; the General Services Administration; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Veterans Administration; the White House Office of Management and Budget; and the White House Domestic Climate Policy Council. Together, the Task Force agencies account for 90% of all federally-financed and purchased construction materials.
The Buy Clean Task Force is charged with developing recommendations on policies and procedures to expand consideration of embodied emissions and pollutants of construction materials in Federal procurement and federally funded projects, which includes:
|September 15, 2022||GSA Administrator Highlights Progress on Low-Carbon Construction Materials Procurement. Read the press release.|
|September 15, 2022||The Biden Administration announced that it is prioritizing the Federal Government’s purchase of steel, concrete, asphalt and flat glass products produced with lower levels of embodied GHG emissions. The Buy Clean Task Force will provide instructions to agencies for integrating Buy Clean into Federal procurement and funding processes. The Administration anticipates prioritizing additional construction materials and pollutants for Buy Clean Federal procurement. Read this announcement.|
|September 15, 2022||The Department of Transportation released its first agency-wide Buy Clean policy and launched a Embodied Carbon Work Group to drive better data and reporting, better procurement and purchasing policies, and better education and research to ensure the use of sustainable materials across its programs. Read this announcement.|
|September 15, 2022||The Department of State announced that it launched a Decarbonization Initiative focused on reducing embodied emissions in overseas construction at embassies and other facilities. Read this announcement.|
|September 7, 2022||DOE released its "Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap"—a comprehensive report identifying four key pathways to reduce industrial emissions in American manufacturing. This will support the supply of U.S.-made, lower-carbon materials for procurement through Buy Clean. Read this announcement.|
|August 16, 2022||President Biden signs the Inflation Reduction Act which provides $4.5 billion to EPA, GSA, and DOT to identify and procure climate-friendly construction materials that will be used in Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and other Federally-funded construction projects. Learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act.|
|June 14, 2022||The Department of Commerce announced its National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is assessing standards for lower-carbon cement and concrete and integrating embodied emissions considerations through EPDs into the widely-used Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) tool.|
|April 22, 2022||DOT's Federal Highway Administration announced a Climate Challenge with funding and technical assistance to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from materials and practices for the design, construction, and maintenance of pavements. Learn more about the Climate Challenge.|
|March 30, 2022||GSA issued its first "Buy Clean" standards for the concrete and asphalt used in all future projects with more than one truckload of material. GSA will require suppliers to provide environmental product declarations and meet low-carbon concrete and environmentally preferable asphalt standards informed by insights from industry. Learn more about the GSA concrete and asphalt standards.|
|February 15, 2022||The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new pilot program will target key products and services to increase use of Environmental Product Declarations and incentivize acquisition of low-carbon materials. Additionally, DOT announced it is standing up a Department-wide Embodied Carbon Working Group to assess and implement actions to reduce lifecycle emissions of construction materials used in transportation infrastructure. Read the DOT announcement.|
|February 15, 2022||GSA released two requests for information (RFIs) to gather marketplace insights from industry on the national availability of concrete and asphalt materials with environmental product declarations, low embodied carbon or superior environmental attributes. Learn more about the RFIs.|
|December 8, 2021||President Biden signed Executive Order 14057 and issued his Federal Sustainability Plan, which directs the Federal Government to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. As part of this announcement, the President charged his Administration to launch a Buy Clean Task Force and initiative to promote use of low-carbon, made in America construction materials. Learn more about this executive action and Federal Sustainability Plan.|
|November 15, 2022||President Biden signs the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which makes the single largest investment in repairing and reconstructing the nation's bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system. It will rebuild the most economically significant bridges in the country as well as thousands of smaller bridges. The legislation also invests billions in port and airport infrastructure. Learn more about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.|
Embodied emissions refer to the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the extraction, production, transport, and manufacturing of material. Low embodied carbon materials have less climate impact associated with mining, manufacturing and transportation. Traditionally, steel, concrete, asphalt, and flat glass contain a high quantity of embodied emissions due to the energy-intensive processes used to extract raw materials like limestone, taconite ore, and silica and then converting those raw materials via industrial processes to produce an end product.
Buy Clean is a procurement policy to promote the purchase of construction materials and products with lower embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, taking into account the life-cycle emissions associated with the production of those materials.
Today, the U.S. manufacturing sector is responsible for nearly a third of U.S. GHG emissions, with the production of steel, concrete, asphalt, and flat glass accounting for nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing GHG emissions. By leveraging the Federal Government's massive purchasing power to support the purchase of American-made steel, concrete, asphalt, and flat glass products with lower embodied emissions, the Federal Government can provide a large and stable signal necessary to advancing the country's industrial capacity to supply the goods and materials of the future while growing good jobs for American workers and significantly reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
Based on a recognition of industry best practice, the Federal Buy Clean Initiative is using product-specific type III Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) as the primary data source for implementation. EPDs take into account a life cycle analysis of multiple environmental impacts, including GHGs at all stages of production. EPDs are similar to nutrition labels on a food product but focus on a materials' environmental and sustainable attributes. The Buy Clean Task Force will continue to identify and pursue opportunities to improve EPDs to ensure they are suitable, consistent and comparable for integration into Federal procurement policies. This information can be supplemented by facility-level energy efficiency benchmarking data such as ENERGY STAR Energy Performance Indicators for industrial plants.
The Federal Government has made great progress in considering the overall climate impacts of new and upgraded construction projects, including applying integrative design principles, whole project life cycle assessment, and sustainable pavements tools. Agencies have also begun to investigate using innovative materials, such as structural mass timber and wood products, that can drastically lower the overall carbon footprint of a building. Buy Clean complements these efforts by ensuring that when designing clean, energy-efficient, net zero infrastructure we are not forgetting the "embodied emissions" in the construction materials that can be equal to the emissions generated over decades of operating the building.