"Buy Clean" is a movement that advocates for environmental policies that encourage the use of products and materials with a smaller carbon footprint.
The American structural steel industry has the lowest carbon footprint of all the major steel-producing countries in the world. We’re proud of that achievement, and even prouder that the industry continues to reduce its carbon footprint.
AISC actively collaborates with many Buy Clean policy advocates, including government officials at the state and federal levels--it’s a natural fit, because our members produce and fabricate the premier green structural material. We work hard to educate policy-makers as well as the general public about the many things that make steel the responsible material choice.
The structural steel industry also leads the marketplace in transparency and disclosure of facility-specific environmental data--an area where other materials, such as mass timber, fall short.
Therefore, we support Buy Clean policies that include all structural materials equally, helping the entire construction marketplace to reach common goals of decarbonization.
As of September 2022, Buy Clean laws have been passed in California, Colorado, and Oregon, and the list of additional states that have considered Buy Clean legislation includes Washington, Texas, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey.
Policy Guidance for Buy Clean Authors
We’ve gathered many lessons learned while helping policy-makers craft smart and informed Buy Clean policies for the American structural steel industry. As a result, we published Buy Clean Guidance for Structural Steel Products for the benefit of future Buy Clean policy authors. Following this guidance will ensure that a policy aligns with the realities of the structural steel supply chain, avoids unintended confusion, and functions effectively to reduce embodied carbon.
Summaries and Resources for Active Buy Clean Policies
California has been promoting clean energy and energy efficiency to support growth and prosperity since 2006. In 2013, California's 800 largest industrial facilities began tracking, reporting, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Despite their efforts, California still uses a substantial portion of its annual state revenues to purchase goods and services that produce high levels of climate pollution, leading to the passage of The Buy Clean California Act (Assembly Bill 262) in October 2017. This bill was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by considering the products that companies buy, including steel.
The legislation went through several iterations, and the law now requires facility-specific Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for suppliers of carbon-steel rebar, flat glass, mineral-wool board insulation, and structural steel. As 90% of the global warming potential (GWP) impacts for fabricated structural steel occur during mill production, acceptable EPDs are those that report mill facility-specific impacts, not fabricator-specific.
Other building materials such as concrete and mass timber are not included and thus benefit from uneven reporting requirements. However, legislative efforts are underway to add more materials, which would bring parity to the law and create a level playing field.
AISC worked diligently with California regulators at the Department of General Services (DGS) to help them implement the Buy Clean California Act, and we’re leveraging that experience to other Buy Clean efforts around the country.
Fabricators and service centers who do business on public California projects should assume they need to comply. See the resources below and/or contact Max Puchtel, Director of Government Relations and Sustainability, for help navigating this law.
- A Quick Guide to Buy Clean California
- Regulations of the Act as published by the California Department of General Services (DGS)
- Buy Clean California and the Steel Supply Chain (revised), a May 3, 2022 recorded webinar by the Steel Tube Institute and AISC
- Additional requirements set by individual California agencies:
On July 6, 2021, Colorado's Governor signed into law HB21-1303: Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials. The Office of the State Architect and the Department of Transportation are each required to set policies on public procurement by January 1, 2024 and January 1, 2025, respectively.
On Mar 23, 2022, Oregon’s Governor signed into law, HB 4139: AN ACT Relating to reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in the state’s transportation system. The law covers activities of the state DOT, and the department is required to establish a program for greenhouse gas reduction no later than December 31, 2025.
On May 24, Minnesota's Governor signed a Buy Clean program, via an omnibus bill, into state law. Details begin on line 311.1 of HF 2310. The program requires GWP thresholds to be set for concrete used in buildings by Jan 15, 2026, and for rebar and structural steel by Jan 15, 2028. The scope of the policy is public projects under the authority of both the Department of Administration and the Department of Transportation. To aid implementation, the bill mandates the creation of an Environmental Standards Procurement Task Force by October 1, 2023, of which AISC is named as a required member.
On December 8, 2021, the Biden Administration released Executive Order 14057 and an accompanying Federal Sustainability Plan outlining the nation's strategy for carbon emissions reduction. Among those goals is the creation of a Federal Buy Clean Task Force, charged with recommending policies and procedures to expand consideration of embodied emissions and pollutants of construction materials in Federal procurement and federally funded projects.
On December 22, 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency released their Interim Determination, providing IRA implementation guidance to federal agencies that are tasked with spending IRA resources on substantially lower embodied carbon construction materials. The determination defines, “substantially lower” as meaning a global-warming potential that is in the best performing 20 percent (Top 20 percent or lowest 20 percent in embodied greenhouse-gas emissions), when compared to similar materials/products.
On January 25, 2023, the General Services Administration released their draft Inflation Reduction Act Low Embodied Carbon Material Standards, establishing thresholds for concrete, steel, asphalt, and glass; in accordance with the guidance in EPA’s Interim Determination.
On May 16, 2023, the General Services Administration announced a pilot of new requirements for the procurement of substantially lower embodied carbon construction materials in GSA projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Thresholds for steel are contained in the GSA’s Interim IRA Low Embodied Carbon Material Requirements.
Where Can I Find U.S. Mill-Specific EPDs?
All domestic structural steel EPDs, including AISC's industry-wide EPDs, are consolidated for your convenience at aisc.org/epd.
Questions? Contact Max Puchtel, Director of Government Relations and Sustainability, at email@example.com