Buy Clean Colorado is Coming — What Will it Mean for Concrete Producers?

The Buy Clean Colorado (BCCO) Act (HB21-1303) promotes the purchase of construction materials with lower embodied carbon emissions. Effective January 1, 2024, BCCO will impact concrete producers supplying Colorado state public projects costing over $500,000. 

The BCCO aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the construction of public projects by setting maximum acceptable global warming potential (GWP) limits for specific high-impact materials, including concrete.

Impact of Buy Clean Colorado on Concrete Production 

When BCCO is implemented in 2024, the carbon footprint of concrete will be normalized as another bid selection criterion for state projects. Government spending on infrastructure is one of the top two end destinations for all concrete manufactured in the United States. Government procurement is also very influential, so any policies that affect concrete procurement in government are likely to be replicated in the private sector.

To meet Buy Clean’s GWP limits and remain competitive, concrete producers in Colorado must optimize their mix designs using solutions like CarbonCure’s ready mix technology. They must also prove their GWP rating by creating Type III EPDs for all concrete mixes.

NOTE: CarbonCure is approved for use in concrete mix designs specified by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and can significantly lower GWP. 

How Buy Clean Colorado Will Be Implemented

The Office of the State Architect (OSA) will manage the program for state agencies and higher education institutions, while the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will handle CDOT's horizontal construction projects.

BCCO requires these state agencies to develop policies that track and limit greenhouse gas emissions of eligible materials used in public projects. It is expected that they will establish maximum acceptable global warming potentials for construction materials, and adjust these limits downward over time to reflect industry conditions. As industry conditions improve, state agencies may adjust the maximum acceptable global warming potential in line with these industry improvements, further reducing GHG emissions. 

The Need for Concrete EPDs

Source: Climate Earth

While there are many different types of EPDs, the one that applies to concrete is the product-specific Type III EPD. Type III EPDs mandate that the information is vetted and verified by a third party — a requirement of Buy Clean.

The creation of Type III EPDs involves a complex life cycle assessment (LCA) of each unique concrete mix and looks at many factors — including plant-related factors — that impact a product’s carbon footprint. Concrete EPDs must comply with the internationally accepted principles, framework, methodology, and practices for LCAs established by ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 as well as data collection, methods, and assumptions outlined in the ISO standard 14025.

A successful Buy Clean policy requires a transparent, independent method to compare the life cycle impact of materials and their carbon emissions against established industry standards. Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) serve this purpose, functioning like nutrition labels for materials' environmental and sustainable attributes. EPDs help procurement officers assess the carbon impact of materials and are increasingly adopted by architects, engineers, and contractors for comparing structural materials like concrete. Industry average declarations are managed and published by organizations such as the National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA), the Cement Association of Canada and can be used as a benchmark to compare against. 

More States to Follow

In fact, new policies and legislation targeting low carbon concrete have already been introduced in Portland, California, Ohio, Marin County, Hawaii, Austin, and New York State

If you’re interested in learning more about low carbon policies affecting concrete producers across North America, visit the dedicated policy section on our website. For more about how CarbonCure can support concrete producers with software to measure the carbon footprint of concrete—and technology to manage it - contact us.

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