What is the Buy Clean California Act?

What is the Buy Clean California Act?
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buy clean california act

What is the Buy Clean California Act

The Buy Clean California Act is a law that was signed in 2017 and came into effect on January 1, 2019. Officially known as AB 262, the Act requires the California Department of General Services (DGS) to establish a maximum acceptable global warming potential for certain materials used in public works projects. The materials covered under the Act include carbon steel rebar, flat glass, mineral wool board insulation, and structural steel.

The goal of the Buy Clean California Act is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by favoring the procurement of building materials that have a lower carbon footprint. To achieve this, the manufacturers of these materials are required to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), which are standardized documents that detail the environmental impact of a product’s lifecycle, including its carbon emissions.

The Act represents one of the ways California is working to meet its ambitious climate goals by encouraging cleaner industrial production and more sustainable construction practices. It’s an example of how state governments can lead in the fight against climate change through policy and procurement strategies.

What does this mean for building product manufacturers?

The Buy Clean California Act has significant implications for building product manufacturers, especially those who intend to supply materials for state-funded construction projects. Here’s what it means for them:

  1. Compliance with Lower Emission Standards: Manufacturers need to ensure that their products meet the established global warming potential (GWP) limits. They must adopt cleaner manufacturing processes and possibly invest in new technologies or raw materials that have lower associated greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Provision of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): An EPD is a document that provides quantifiable environmental data of a product, based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA), and includes information about the product’s impact on global warming potential, ozone depletion, water pollution, and other critical environmental concerns. It’s a transparent declaration of the product’s environmental impact throughout its lifecycle from production to disposal.
  3. Verification and Transparency: The EPDs must be third-party verified, ensuring that the declarations are accurate and reliable. This increases the transparency of the product’s environmental impact and holds manufacturers accountable for their sustainability claims.
  4. Market Advantage: Manufacturers that can provide EPDs and demonstrate low GWP for their products might gain a competitive advantage in California’s public works market, as the Act essentially mandates state projects to procure materials from such sources.
  5. Documentation and Reporting: There will be a need for meticulous documentation and reporting practices. Manufacturers must be prepared to consistently track and report on their products’ environmental impacts and improvements over time.
  6. Potential Costs: Complying with these new regulations may incur additional costs for manufacturers in the short term, as they may need to invest in cleaner technology, reformulate products, or acquire certifications.


The enforcement of the Buy Clean California Act involves several steps and entities, primarily the California Department of General Services (DGS). Here’s how the enforcement process generally works:

  • Setting Maximum Global Warming Potential (GWP) Values: The DGS is tasked with establishing maximum GWP values for certain building materials. These values are based on industry averages and are determined through a public and transparent process.
  • Requirement of EPDs: Manufacturers of the specified materials are required to produce Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) that are third-party verified. These EPDs must demonstrate that their products meet or are below the established GWP values.
  • Bid and Contract Specifications: For state-funded construction projects, the specifications now include the requirement for materials to comply with the Buy Clean California Act. Bids for projects will have to demonstrate that the materials proposed meet the GWP limits.
  • Review and Compliance Checks: When a bid is accepted, the responsibility for compliance often falls on the contractor to ensure that the materials used in the construction project have valid and compliant EPDs.
  • Reporting: The DGS is required to submit a report to the legislature every three years on the effectiveness of the Buy Clean California Act, including recommendations for changes or improvements to the Act.
  • Audits and Penalties: The state may conduct audits of projects to ensure compliance. If a manufacturer or contractor is found to be in violation of the Act, there may be penalties, which can include fines or disqualification from future state contracts.
  • Market Monitoring: The DGS monitors the market for the specified materials to ensure that the Act is effectively reducing the carbon footprint of construction materials and to determine if adjustments to the GWP limits are needed.
  • Education and Outreach: Part of enforcement involves educating manufacturers, contractors, and state agencies about the requirements of the Act and how to comply with them.

Enforcement of the Buy Clean California Act is designed to be a collaborative process, engaging stakeholders across the construction industry to achieve its environmental goals. It sets a precedent for how governments can incentivize the reduction of carbon emissions in the building sector and encourage the creation of greener products.

What does this all mean?

The Buy Clean California Act is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with public construction projects. It compels building product manufacturers to reevaluate their production processes and supply chains to meet specified environmental standards, particularly in terms of Global Warming Potential (GWP). The act is enforced by the California Department of General Services (DGS), which sets maximum GWP values for certain materials and requires manufacturers to substantiate their compliance through third-party verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

For building product manufacturers, the act means a shift towards more sustainable practices, necessitating investments in cleaner technologies and processes to produce materials with a smaller carbon footprint. It also means embracing transparency by providing detailed EPDs for their products. Compliance with the act not only meets regulatory requirements but can also offer a competitive advantage in the marketplace, aligning with growing industry and consumer demands for sustainability.

The enforcement of the act involves a combination of regulatory oversight, mandatory reporting, audits, and potentially penalties for non-compliance, ensuring that the manufacturers adhere to the set GWP limits. Through these measures, the Buy Clean California Act is not just regulatory compliance but a catalyst for change, driving the industry towards a more sustainable future and establishing California as a leader in environmentally responsible construction.


Buy Clean California Act

What is an Environmental Product Declaration

California’s New Whole Building Embodied Carbon Policy 

Caltrans Environmental Product Declaration overview


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