‘Buy Clean Concrete’ Represents a Monumental Step in New York State’s Commitment to Environmental Sustainability
New Guidance Developed by Office of General Services in Consultation with Government, Industry, Environmental Group, and Academic Stakeholders
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the adoption of mandatory rules establishing emissions limits on concrete used in state-funded public building and transportation projects, reaffirming the state’s commitment to environmental sustainability and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in government operations. The guidelines also support Governor Hochul’s “Leading by Example” Executive Order 22, under which state agencies are required to collect New York-specific data from common construction materials, including concrete, which will be used to set lower limits on greenhouse gas emissions from concrete, starting in 2027.
“Adopting Buy Clean Concrete guidelines marks a monumental step in our journey towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly New York State,” Governor Hochul said. “By setting mandatory emissions limits on concrete used in state-funded projects, we're not just leading by example but creating a tangible roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the board."
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy said, “New York State’s Buy Clean Concrete mandate reaffirms Governor Hochul’s commitment to environmental sustainability and sets a benchmark for others to emulate. By embracing low embodied carbon concrete, New York is charting a course toward a greener, more sustainable future. The OGS team is proud of our efforts in drafting these new rules and grateful to the wide variety of stakeholders who provided their invaluable knowledge and expertise.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Governor Hochul continues to demonstrate her commitment to sustainable development and responsible stewardship of our environment. These guidelines will go a long way to encourage collaboration between all stakeholders, sharing best practices with a common goal for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lowering our collective carbon footprint.”
White House Council on Environmental Quality Federal Chief Sustainability Officer Andrew Mayock said, “Through the Biden Administration’s Federal-State Buy Clean Partnership, the Federal Government and its state partners are prioritizing the purchase of American-made, lower-carbon construction materials, which is good for American workers, our economy, and our environment. As Co-chair of the Federal-State Buy Clean Partnership, I commend the State of New York for its leadership in putting Buy Clean into action and maximizing its support for U.S. manufacturing of clean construction materials, including concrete.”
Natural Resources Defense Council Industrial Decarbonization Lead Ian Wells said, “Concrete is the most commonly used construction material in the world, and one of the most carbon emissions-intensive to produce. This guidance is an early and critical step to cutting down on the pollution and climate harm that go into our buildings, homes, and infrastructure. We look forward to working with New York leaders in the years to come to continue elevating these standards and turning concrete from a climate burden to a climate asset.”
U.S. Climate Alliance Executive Director Casey Katims said, “With these new rules, New York is leading by example through cleaner, greener procurement. Buying Clean can move markets and slash harmful climate pollution — and Governor Hochul is showing the way for the rest of the country.”
Assemblymember Robert Carroll said, “It is great to see the Governor moving forward with the implementation of my bill 'The Low Embodied Carbon Concrete Leadership Act.' The State's 'buy clean concrete' mandate is an important step in our fight against climate change."
New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe said, “As the climate crisis bears down on us, it is critical that we lower emissions in every corner of the economy, and that must include the very materials we use to build. We applaud Governor Hochul for moving forward with a pilot for a low embodied carbon procurement standard for public construction contracts, implementing a bill included in NYLCV’s 2021 scorecard. This measure will incentivize emissions reductions throughout the concrete production process and enable its eventual use economy wide.”
Rebecca Esau, AIA, Manager in RMI’s (Founded As Rocky Mountain Institute) Carbon-Free Buildings Program said, “These guidelines for low-carbon concrete are a significant first step to reduce embodied carbon emissions from New York’s public real estate portfolio and achieve the building decarbonization goals outlined in the state’s Climate Act. RMI is pleased to see the guidelines align with existing Federal and state policy while providing technical assistance to support compliance, particularly for small businesses. These actions will send a clear market signal to concrete producers in New York State and the Northeast region to disclose the carbon content of their products and reduce the associated GHG emissions.”
Open Air Collective Cofounder Chris Neidl said, “It’s great to see New York forging ahead in establishing low carbon concrete guidance. This guidance lays the framework for reducing emissions from New York’s largest purchaser of concrete, creating a strong incentive for the industry to move towards low carbon concrete mixes and products.”
Carbon Leadership Forum Senior Researcher Jordan Palmeri said, “New York State is a leader in targeting lower carbon concrete mixes for State projects. They conducted meaningful stakeholder consults that resulted in achievable initial carbon limits with phased reductions over time.”
Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the the full lifecycle of concrete -- from the extraction of raw materials and transportation to installation and disposal. Data on a construction material or product’s lifecycle-related environmental impact is available through a report called an Environmental Product Declaration (“EPD”) and enable comparison of environmental impacts across concrete mixes. New York’s groundbreaking Buy Clean Concrete guidelines are the first to implement greenhouse gas emission limits covering all state agency projects.
Starting January 1, 2025, EPDs must be submitted for all concrete mixes used in qualifying state construction projects and must demonstrate that they achieve an environmental impact below the limits set by New York State. These EPDs will provide transparency and a more robust accounting of a concrete mix’s greenhouse gas emissions and enable state agencies and other stakeholders to make more informed choices in reducing emissions. The State is working towards providing concrete producers with the technical assistance they need to meet the EPD requirements.
The Buy Clean Concrete guidelines apply to state agency contracts exceeding $1 million that involve the use of more than 50 cubic yards of concrete, or Department of Transportation contracts exceeding $3 million that include at least 200 cubic yards of concrete. The guidelines include exceptions for emergency projects and those requiring high-strength or quick-cure concrete and do not apply to state authorities.
Following Governor Hochul’s signing of State Finance Law §136-d, which called for these guidelines to be developed, the Office of General Services partnered with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and convened a stakeholder and expert group to gain valuable insight and assistance in the production of guidelines for the use and innovation of low embodied carbon concrete in New York State construction projects. The group included state agency and authority officials including the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It also included licensed professional engineers, licensed registered architects, representatives of the construction industry, representatives of an accredited school of civil engineering, and knowledgeable sources from think tanks, nonprofit environmental organizations, and academia.
This guidance enacts several recommendations from New York’s Climate Action Council Scoping Plan, including those in the Buildings chapter for making embodied carbon transparent and adopting lower carbon specifications for high intensity materials for state projects. It also implements Industry chapter recommendations to identify carbon intense materials and develop standards for reducing the environmental impact of building materials.
New York State’s Nation-Leading Climate Plan
New York State’s nation-leading climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation’s most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York’s unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $35 billion in 120 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the state, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, more than $1 billion for clean transportation initiatives, and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 165,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector in 2021 and over 3,000 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York’s climate action with nearly 400 registered and 100 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State’s largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to help target air pollution and combat climate change.