July 2021

Policy Drives Change

by Kate Simonen, Executive Director, Carbon Leadership Forum

The Carbon Leadership Forum’s “theory of change” is a kind of roadmap to guide our work. We begin by articulating our long-term goal of decarbonizing the built environment, with a focus on reducing the carbon footprint of materials. We then identify the necessary to meet that goal – for example, a knowledgeable community of connected collaborators, government and corporate policies in place to help drive change, reliable, transparent, openly accessible data, and powerful tools to help designers lower the carbon footprint of their projects. Finally, we identify the specific work CLF uniquely must do to deliver those outcomes.

A key component of CLF’s theory of change involves informing the development of policies that can drive decarbonization. This does not mean that we lobby for specific policies. However, we do believe that decarbonization policy, to be effective, must be technically appropriate and of high quality. It must be based on rigorous research and informed by robust methodology. And it must lead to equitable outcomes and healthy communities. We are grateful for the opportunity to help inform and refine policy proposals, supporting both government and private sector policies and practices.

As CLF’s Meghan Lewis notes in this newsletter, several states are now taking big steps on embodied carbon this legislative session. Procurement policies related to embodied carbon were introduced in eight states in 2021, and the Governor of Colorado has now signed a law titled “Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials” -- popularly known as Buy Clean Colorado -- designed to reduce embodied carbon in materials procured for tax-funded projects. We are proud that CLF’s Policy Toolkit is playing a significant role informing these initiatives!

Member Impact  

Luke Leung
Sustainable Engineering Director, SOM

Dr. Kanwal Sugit
Founding Director, TerraLive Envirotech

Jon Strimling
Serial CleanTech entrepreneur and CEO of CleanFiber

Julia Pooler
Leader of Girl Scout Troops 1477 and 1952 in Madison, WI

Find out what our members are doing to address embodied carbon
Learn More
Healthy Materials Webinars: A Series from
CLF San Francisco

Now is the Time to Reconsider
the Products of Our Built Environment

Next in the series: Building Systems
July 19, 2021, 5:00 pm PST

After a year of Covid-19, environmental crises, and calls for social justice, ‘Healthy Materials’ could not be more important. We have seen the air polluted with carbon from the extraction of raw materials. We have seen manufacturing plants release toxic by-products into the air and water, compromising neighborhoods predominantly of color. We have seen contagions spread through our buildings, ill-equipped to suppress such viruses and bacteria. We have seen fires burn toxicity into our air, poisoning our firefighters and neighbors. Now is the time to reimagine the products of our built environment.

Local AIA COTE, CLF, and USGBC chapters in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles present the Healthy Materials Series, a 6-part program that started in May 2021 and continue through August 2021.

Register for the Series
CLF Analysis: EPD Requirements in Procurement Policies  
A variety of existing and proposed legislation regulating public procurement at the federal, state, and city levels require the collection of environmental product declarations (EPDs) for reporting the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with building material production. Colorado's new law Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials, and similar policies aim to reduce the embodied carbon associated with the construction of publicly owned facilities by leveraging the purchasing power of government agencies to incentivize transparency and encourage lower-carbon options.

CLF Analysis of Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Definitions in Buy Clean and other North American Procurement Policies

​A growing number of local, state, and federal procurement policies require environmental product declarations (EPDs) for reporting the embodied carbon of eligible products. Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and disposal of construction materials used in the construction of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. Procurement policies such as Buy Clean aim to leverage the purchasing power of government agencies to incentivize transparency and a shift toward lower-carbon options in the broader construction materials market.

EPDs are appropriate for use in procurement policies because they already exist as agreed-upon resources for calculating and documenting the embodied carbon of products. There are limitations on the use of EPDs for comparison, and there is room to improve EPDs and product category rules (PCRs). Policies aiming to compare products across categories (such as between concrete and steel) should consider a building-scale approach and use whole building life cycle assessment (LCA).

Read the Full Analysis!

States Act to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Public Procurement


Colorado Leads the Way!

by Meghan Lewis
Senior Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum

States are taking big steps on embodied carbon action this legislative session. Procurement policies related to embodied carbon were introduced in eight states in 2021, including Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

The first of these bills was signed into law this summer on July 6, as Buy Clean Colorado, introduced as House Bill 21-1303 in the Colorado General Assembly, became the second state procurement policy focused on embodied carbon to become state law. Buy Clean CO will phase in requirements environmental product declarations and global warming potential limits for asphalt, cement, concrete, glass, steel, and wood for state projects. The Office of the State Architect and Department of Transportation will lead implementation of the bill for buildings and transportation infrastructure respectively.

Read the Complete Policy Update

This month’s action checklist

Join the online CLF Community – focus groups, information, collaboration, research, resources, exploration, innovation.
Check out News You Can Use with comprehensive coverage of the movement to reduce embodied carbon.
Time to sign up for Getting to Zero Forum! Register Now, October 27-29, 2021, New York City.

About the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington

Who We Are

  • The Carbon Leadership Forum accelerates transformation of the building sector to radically reduce the embodied carbon in building materials and construction.
  • We pioneer research, create resources, foster cross-sector collaboration, and incubate member-led initiatives to bring embodied carbon emissions of buildings down to zero.
  • We are architects, engineers, contractors, material suppliers, building owners, and policymakers who care about the future and take bold steps to eliminate embodied carbon from buildings and infrastructure.


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