Biden-Harris Administration Introduces Low-Carbon Construction Initiative

The White House's new Buy Clean Task Force will focus on using U.S.-made, low-carbon materials in federal construction projects.

As part of an effort to make the United States government more sustainable, the Biden-Harris Administration has launched a new task force focused on using low-carbon materials made in the U.S. in federal construction projects. Established by the Council on Environmental Quality and White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, the Buy Clean Task Force will harness the federal government’s annual purchasing power of over $650 billion to support low-carbon materials made in U.S. factories.

White House Buy Clean Task Force
(Photo: AdobeStock)

As directed by President Biden’s December 2021 executive order on federal sustainability, the task force will promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions and pollutants across their lifecycle—including each stage of the manufacturing process. Low embodied carbon materials have less climate impact associated with mining, manufacturing, and transportation. Other members of the task force include the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the General Services Administration (GSA); and the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The Buy Clean Task Force will develop recommendations on:

  • Identifying materials, such as steel and concrete, as well as pollutants to prioritize for consideration in federal procurement and federally-funded projects;
  • Increasing the transparency of embodied emissions through supplier reporting, including incentives and technical assistance to help domestic manufacturers better report and reduce embodied emissions; and
  • Launching pilot programs to boost federal procurement of clean construction materials.

Creation of the Buy Clean Task Force puts the U.S. government at the leading edge of using public procurement to increase demand for cleanly manufactured materials, joining states including California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Washington.

“Buy Clean” efforts are already underway at the GSA, which manages a nationwide federal real estate portfolio and oversees approximately $75 billion in annual contracts. In conjunction with the creation of the Buy Clean Task Force, the GSA issued Requests for Information (RFIs) to gather insights on sustainable, low-emission concrete and asphalt materials

“GSA is committed to leveraging its purchasing power to support American workers and to promote cleaner U.S. industries that can produce the next generation of sustainable products and materials for a healthier, more prosperous economy,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan. “As we make historic investments in America’s critical infrastructure, we look forward to partnering with industry to reduce harmful emissions, create clean energy jobs, and seize this opportunity to build a better future for everyone.”

GSA plans to use the industry’s RFI responses to shape its deployment of new national low-carbon concrete and sustainable asphalt standards for land port of entry projects, including pavement upgrades, funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. According to the GSA, the industrial sector is central to tackling the climate crisis, with 23% of total global emissions being attributable to concrete, steel, and aluminum alone.

“GSA is proud to be contributing to the Biden-Harris Administration’s all-of-government approach to decarbonizing the U.S. economy and reinvigorating clean manufacturing,” said Sonal Larsen, GSA’s Senior Advisor on Climate. “Building materials are a major contributor to global emissions, and we’re excited to hear from industry about innovative products and approaches that can reduce carbon pollution while strengthening our homegrown manufacturing base.”

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