NYC to cut greenhouse gas emissions from municipal construction projects

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New York Construction report staff writer

Mayor Eric Adams has signed an executive order that requires the city’s capital project agencies including the department of design and construction to use “more sustainable” materials, equipment and sustainability assessments.

Under new rules, city agencies must “make their best efforts” to use low-carbon concrete in capital projects and sidewalks.

The Clean Construction Executive Order 23, which requires the city’s capital project agencies to commit to actions that will lower embodied carbon — greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials — from municipal construction projects. Regulations are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and noise pollution citywide.

“As home to $55 billion worth of construction each year, New York City must be at the forefront of decarbonizing this industry. Construction produces 5.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, but with a concerted effort we can reduce those emissions by 90%,” New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar said in a statement. “Through the use of low-carbon concrete, environmental product declarations, low- and zero-emission vehicles, and life cycle assessments, we will be on track for the sustainable future that our children need and deserve,” .

The order also requires any construction funded by new federal infrastructure and climate bill funding must use sustainable materials, equipment, and practices.

“As extreme weather intensifies, it is clear that we are in the midst of a climate crisis in this city and across the world,” Adams said. “It is imperative that we use every tool in our toolbox to lower embodied carbon. This executive order is a massive stride towards doing just that and giving all of us a more breathable, livable home.”

Agencies must submit life cycle assessment reports annually on new construction, additions and substantial building works and create action plans for cutting embodied carbon emissions from construction and manufacturing for capital projects starting by October 2023.

New York City has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and the executive order noted construction is responsible for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions in the city.

Adams says the city has a “moral, economic, public health and security imperative” to push for stronger climate action “to project our planet, fellow human beings and future generations”.

Alongside green construction rules, the order also requires capital project agencies to provide specifications for low-emission vehicles and equipment in project contracts.

The executive order was issued at the end of New York Climate Week, giving the city “the opportunity to lead the market development and uptake of low-embodied carbon and clean construction strategies through the incorporation of these principles into our publicly-funded projects.”

directs agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the embodied carbon of building materials and construction equipment through:

  • Low-carbon concrete specifications: Capital project agencies will set specifications for low-carbon concrete for concrete used in capital projects to directly reduce the environmental impact of construction.
  • Environmental product declarations: Capital project agencies will submit environmental product declarations for structural steel and concrete, in order to quantify the environmental impact of these materials in city work.
  • Low-emission vehicles and equipment: Capital project agencies will include specifications in capital project construction contracts for low-emission vehicles and equipment, with a preference for all-electric equipment to reduce air and noise pollution.
  • Life cycle assessments: Capital project agencies shall complete a Life Cycle Assessment for applicable projects to quantify the environmental impact of the whole project and reduce the impact where possible.

“DDC is one of the leading agencies for addressing climate change, and the construction industry itself is a significant source of emissions that we can help manage,” said New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Commissioner Thomas Foley.

“We’re reviewing our specifications to reduce the embedded carbon in the concrete that we use, and we’re going to require our suppliers to disclose the environmental effects of their steel and concrete manufacturing processes so we can work with them on ways to adjust it downward. We’re also going to review emissions from engines and other motorized equipment at our sites and determine where we can electrify.”

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