The U.S. General Services Administration is imposing new limitations on high carbon-emitting building materials for all its major projects, a decision that affects billions of dollars of federal infrastructure investments.

The new standards require that federal contractors use climate-friendly concrete and asphalt in all the agency’s major projects. The standards also govern projects funded through the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last year.

GSA now requires that all contractors specify the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their building materials, providing environmental product declarations. Carbon emitted from a product’s extraction, transportation and manufacturing all are considered.

The new low-embodied carbon concrete standard requires GSA project contractors to provide environmental product declarations (EPD), where available, according to the GSA. An EPD is a standard, third-party-verified summary of the primary environmental impacts – including greenhouse gas emissions – from a product’s extraction, transportation and manufacturing. GSA also now asks its contractors to provide concrete that meets specific numeric limits for the amount of GHG emissions, or “embodied carbon,” associated with its production. GSA’s standard reflects a 20% reduction from national concrete GHG limits.

According to the GSA, more than 80% of concrete manufacturers who accept federal contracts already produce or supply low-embodied carbon material, more than 60% said they have developed a product-specific EPD and more than half said that their low-embodied carbon concrete costs about the same as conventional equivalents.

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