Public works include construction, renovation, remodeling, and repair, other than maintenance, of real property at the cost of the state or a municipality. The capital budget provides direct appropriations and grants to state agencies, other governmental entities, and nonprofit organizations for public works. The transportation budget provides funding to construct and preserve roads and bridges, ferries and terminals, and freight rail. Typical materials used in those projects may include concrete, steel, and other materials. Most public works are procured using the Design-Bid-Build procedure when a governmental entity selects an architectural engineering firm to develop drawings and specifications for the project along with an estimate of the cost, then the construction contract is awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. The contractor is required to follow the specifications and drawings and may use whatever means to do so as long as the materials meet the specifications.
Global Warming Potential.
The Global Warming Potential (GWP) compares the global warming impacts of different gases. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Ecology identify carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride as greenhouse gases (GHGs) because of their capacity to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere. According to the EPA, the GWP of each GHG is a function of how much of the gas is concentrated in the atmosphere, how long the gas stays in the atmosphere, and how strongly the particular gas affects global atmospheric temperatures. Under state law, the GWP of a gas is measured in terms of the equivalence to the emission of an identical volume of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe.
Environmental Product Declaration.
An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is a report providing what a product is made of and how it impacts targeted aspects of the environment, including the manufacturing impacts, transportation impacts, and construction impacts. Environmental Product Declarations are created according to internationally recognized standards and are third-party verified or self-declared. Environmental Product Declarations may be based on industry averages or specific to individual products or facilities.
Labor Laws and Standards.
Several laws address employment standards and working conditions. The International Labour Organization (ILO) within the United Nations maintains and develops a system of international labor standards. The ILO's four fundamental principles and rights to work are: (1) effective abolition of child labor; (2) elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation; (3) elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; and (4) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
Buy Clean Study and Pilot.
The 2018 Supplemental Capital Budget included funding for a Buy Clean study and a pilot project. The University of Washington (UW), in collaboration with Central Washington University, Washington State University, and the Department of Enterprise Services (DES), submitted a report analyzing existing embodied carbon policy, and proposing methods to categorize structural materials. The DES and the awarding authorities of four capital projects are collaborating with the UW to test the proposed methods and the availability of EPDs.
Awarding authorities are state agencies and institutions of higher education that contract directly for a public works project that receives funding from the capital budget.
A covered project is a:
Covered materials are:
Working conditions are defined as:
Firms that are selected for a covered project contract are directed to submit an EPD and additional specified data, including information about working conditions at the production facilities, for at least 90 percent of the cost of each of the covered products used as follows:
If a selected firm cannot meet the primary reporting requirements, they must report on its efforts to obtain the data, provide documentation demonstrating the steps undertaken to reasonably obtain the data, and, if a firm cannot meet the requirements on the grounds of hardship, demonstrate the nature of the hardship.
Subject to funds made available for this purpose, the Department of Commerce (Department) may provide financial assistance to small businesses to produce an EPD.
Each awarding authority must transmit a copy of all collected data to the Department, annually. The UW College of Built Environment is directed to create a publicly accessible database, with projects anonymized, to report the collected data and will publish global warming potential as reported in the EPDs. By January 1, 2025, the Department will submit a report to the Legislature, summarizing the collected data.
The Office of Financial Management must inform awarding authorities about the requirements in this act.
The act may be known and cited as the Buy Clean and Buy Fair Washington Act.
The substitute bill:
(In support) This policy will advance the state's energy goals, align state capital purchases with those goals, and give the state an opportunity to lead by example. This bill is a signal to the economy of what the state values—a healthy environment and fair labor conditions. These policies reward manufacturers that invest in high labor and environmental standards. Good jobs mean a strong economy. The bill is a win for the forests, climate, workers, and the economy.
This bill puts Washington manufacturers at a competitive advantage because of the state's high labor and environmental standards and low energy grid. Additionally, this bill favors domestic-made material over foreign-made material because the United States has the highest standards and regulations in the world. This will help bring good manufacturing jobs back to America. Too often across the world, the treatment of workers is disregarded while manufacturing more eco-friendly building materials. This policy is a first step in reversing the damage caused by de-industrialization.
The private sector and local governments are interested in building with materials that have less embodied carbon. Materials can look and cost the same but have very different carbon impacts. The largest hurdle in making informed purchases is a lack of data and the EPD make more informed purchases possible.
The EPDs for many products already exist. The creation of free, verified EPDs is not a future state—it is happening now in Washington and elsewhere. Environmental Product Declarations were required during the construction of the Helen Sommers Building and it was a successful project.
This is a reporting-only bill and will not result in an undue burden on contractors. Reporting EPDs may seem like a simple act but what is not measured can not be managed. This policy will not increase the cost of doing business, but it will have a real impact on carbon reduction.
The built environment is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, and embodied carbon accounts for about a quarter of those emissions. This policy is necessary because once a project is complete, the carbon impact is locked in. With these policies, the construction industry can be part of the solution, by growing demand for materials with higher environmental standards.
This version of the bill is an improvement upon previous Buy Clean policies considered by the Legislature.
(Opposed) This bill has requirements beyond reporting. Compliance will be a burden on state agencies because it adds complexity to the procurement process. The policy should be simplified to direct state agencies to consider EPDs when available instead of creating reporting requirements.
The minimize size of eligible projects should be increased from 25,000 gross sq ft to 50,000 sq ft. The requirement to report health certificates should be removed. Health certifications are required in the bill, but the term is not defined. The requirement that data is reported on 90 percent of weight of a covered project should be replaced with 90 percent of cost, because weight has no correlation to carbon emissions.
The reporting requirements set to begin in 2023 will not be possible for all materials, including concrete. There are many EPDs currently available for concrete.
There is concern about how EPDs will be used. Environmental Product Declarations cannot be used to compare different types of materials. Life-cycle analysis is a better measurement tool than EPDs.
The reporting requirements go beyond EPDs and would place an undue burden on contractors and manufacturers without achieving the state's energy goals. Some of the required information may not be available to manufacturers, such as labor information in the supply chain and health certifications.
The labor reporting requirements should be removed and decoupled from the environmental requirements. It is not fair to insist other countries meet the United States labor and environmental standards.
This version of the Buy Clean policy does not incorporate feedback from impacted manufacturing industries.
The Legislature and contractors have worked for many years to shorten the period of time that contractors have to wait to get paid by the state. This policy would undo that work. Retainage payment should not be held hostage over reporting requirements.
Many support reducing carbon emissions in the built environment, but believe that this is not the way to achieve that objective.
(Other) This version of the bill is an improvement to previous versions of the policy that have been considered over the years.
The reporting requirements are not achievable for the wood product industry. Information is not tracked at the required level of detail and wood disclosures would not add value. Most Washington wood is already certified sustainable by industry standards. Also, the definitions in the bill related to wood products are vague.
The intent of the bill is not clear. Asking contractors to report embodied carbon in building materials after the project is complete does not help reduce carbon emissions. If the objective is to create an EPD database, there are a number of databases already available at the federal level. The most effective way to ensure high environmental and labor standards are considered in the procurement process is to require that public works are constructed with domestically produced material.
More building materials should be included in the definition of "covered material."