Construction general view man Seattle space needle

Construction accounts for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse emissions, the executive order noted


NYC mandates green construction for major city projects

Mayor Eric Adams has signed an executive order requiring the city’s capital project agencies – such as the department of design and construction – to use more sustainable materials, equipment and sustainability assessments.

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

Construction managers working on these major infrastructure projects will have to submit environmental product declarations. These declarations collate environmental information, allowing the city to compare the impacts of similar projects.

Agencies will have to submit life cycle assessment reports annually on new construction, additions and substantial building works. They will also need to produce action plans for cutting embodied carbon – emissions from the construction or manufacturing process – in capital projects by October 2023.

New York City has pledged to hit carbon neutrality by 2050. The executive order noted that construction is responsible for 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The order said that 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”.

“[T]he Cit of New York has 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,” it added.

Alongside green construction requirements, the city will also require capital project agencies to include specifications for low-emission vehicles and equipment in project contracts.

The executive order was issued at the end of New York Climate Week, which saw public and private sector leaders descend on the city for events exploring a low-carbon future.

Why concrete?

Real estate often hears that the built environment accounts for 40% of the world’s emissions. A statistic repeated almost as often is that concrete itself is responsible for up to 8% of emissions.

Achieving net zero – whether as an organisation, country or planet – will necessarily require doing something about concrete. But as urbanisation continues at pace, the demand for concrete is only going in one direction.

The combination of these two factors is driving demand for low-carbon alternatives, and developers keen to be seen doing something about climate are putting them to use in buildings around the world.

You can find examples ranging from the Joint Research Centre for the European Commission in Seville to Lendlease’s luxury residential tower, The Reed, in Chicago. While developers like British Land in the UK are experimenting with cement-free concrete, researchers are testing graphene-enforced concrete that would significantly reduce the amount of material needed in buildings.

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