New York will become the first state in the U.S. to limit emissions on concrete used in construction projects by state agencies. Governor Kathy Hochul announced yesterday that the mandatory emissions limits, also known as “Buy Clean Concrete,” will go into effect starting January 1st, 2025. The law will apply to all state agency contracts exceeding $1 million where more than 50 cubic yards of concrete is used or New York DOT contracts over $3 million that use at least 200 cubic yards of concrete. There will be exceptions to the legislation for emergency projects and developments that require high-strength or quick-cure concrete and do not apply to state authorities. The new rule stems from a law signed back in 2021 that called for guidelines around concrete emissions to be developed. It also ties into Governor Hochul’s Executive Order 22, in which state agencies are required to collect New York-specific data from commonly used construction materials, including concrete, which will then be used to set lower limits on greenhouse gas emissions from concrete starting in 2027.
This latest move by New York state officials to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions is part of New York’s Climate Action Council Scoping Plan, a framework the state created to eventually achieve net-zero emissions and increase the use of renewable energy. Aside from New York, decarbonizing construction materials is something that the federal government is looking at as well. Last year, the General Services Administration (GSA) released two RFIs in order to gather more information on the availability of concrete and asphalt materials with low embodied carbon. The GSA also took part in a Buy Clean Task Force established by the White House to focus on purchasing low-carbon materials. Embodied carbon in building materials is estimated to account for around 30 percent of global building emissions and accounts for emissions created before or after a building’s useful life from the materials, construction, and demolition of properties. Green concrete has emerged as an alternative to traditional concrete, as it requires less energy to produce and is manufactured using wasteland leftover materials from various industries. While the impetus and political will to decarbonize concrete is there, getting builders on board continues to be the biggest challenge to green concrete being more widely used.