NY Adopting First Clean Concrete Mandate
Last week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced new regulations that will establish emission limits on concrete used in state-funded public building and transportation projects.
The “Buy Clean Concrete” guidelines are reportedly the first in the state to implement greenhouse gas emission limits covering all state agency projects.
“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.”
Buy Clean Concrete
According to the governor’s office, data on an instruction material or product’s lifecycle-related environmental impact is available through an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) report. This reportedly enables a comparison of environmental impacts across concrete mixes, including embodied carbon.
Under the new guidelines, EPDs must be submitted for all concrete mixes used in qualifying state construction projects, starting Jan. 1, 2025. Additionally, they must demonstrate that they achieve an environmental impact below the limits set by New York State.
New York State Issues Buy Clean Concrete Guidelines for State Projects: https://t.co/h60g3wOinY— Adam @ ENR (@adam_ENR) September 26, 2023
These reports are anticipated to provide transparency and a more robust accounting of a concrete mix’s greenhouse gas emissions, with a goal to allow state agencies and other stakeholders to make more informed choices in reducing emissions.
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 also include exceptions for emergency projects and those requiring high-strength or quick-cure concrete and do not apply to state authorities.
The Office of General Services reportedly partnered with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create a group for insight and assistance in the production of guidelines for the use and innovation of low embodied carbon concrete in 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.
Engineering News-Record reports that the state’s “relatively easy-to-achieve carbon footprint targets” are divided into three key phases, including:
Additionally, the new guidelines will support the “Leading by Example” Executive Order 22, which requires state agencies to collect New York-specific data from common construction materials, including concrete. Starting in 2027, these will then be used to set lower limits on greenhouse gas emissions from concrete.
Other Green NY Legislation
Back in 2021, New York legislators passed a bill designed to promote the use of low-carbon concrete for state construction projects. Bill S542A required the Office of General Services to establish guidelines concerning the procurement of low-carbon concrete for state projects. Contractors would need to follow these guidelines and certify that their materials meet guideline targets.
The bill also outlined that the office needed to examine when crafting said guidelines such as incentives—as a tax credit that was initially associated with the bill was removed in the final version that passed. The office would then be awarding future contracts to companies based on these climate performances as well as price.
More recently, in May, the state reportedly planned to require a ban on fossil fuel equipment in the construction of new buildings starting in 2026. While currently a proposal and not finalized, the replacement is recommended in the state’s climate plan.
Politico reported that the state’s budget will implement the ban in most new buildings under seven stories starting in 2026, with larger buildings covered in 2029. This includes propane heating and no gas furnaces or stoves in most new construction. Exemptions will be included for commercial kitchens, emergency generators and hospitals.
New York would reportedly be the first state to take this step through legislative action; California and Washington have previously done so through building codes. The measure will help the state achieve its ambitious mandate to cut emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% by 2050.
The rule is also anticipated to align with New York City’s zero-emission building law that passed in 2021. The later date—starting Dec. 31, 2028—is also expected to apply for commercial buildings and those over 100,000 square feet, Hochul spokesperson Katy Zielinski said.