The Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") is seeking public comments on its implementation of the EPA label program for low embodied carbon construction materials. The Inflation Reduction Act[1] ("IRA") authorized $100 million to develop the program, which aims to cut climate pollution linked to the manufacturing of construction products and materials. Section 60116 (a) of the IRA charges EPA with identifying and labeling materials and products with "substantially lower levels" of embodied carbon when compared with "estimated industry averages of similar materials and products." At a time of increased scrutiny on green claims, the label program will hopefully bring some clarity, at least for the construction industry, in defining what constitutes "clean" construction materials.

EPA's publication in the Federal Register describes its draft approach for the implementation of the label program and announces a webinar on the issue on February 27, 2024. The label program will build on EPA's work under Section 60112 of the IRA to support the development, enhanced standardization and transparency, and reporting criteria of environmental product declarations ("EPDs") in the marketplace. EPDs provide environmental data related to the life cycle stages of products and are developed using Product Category Rules (PCRs).

Phased Approach

Initially, the label program will focus on developing data for the Global Warming Potential ("GWP") of the production stage for construction materials and products and will focus on the production of steel, glass, asphalt, and concrete, which EPA has prioritized under its interim determination and in the Federal Buy Clean Initiative. The label program will offer a tiered rating system of certification based on the GWP value of products and materials.[2]

EPA is proposing a phased approach for the label program:

  • Phase I, EPA will focus on data quality improvement for EPDs. EPA estimates that most materials and products will progress through Phase I within six to 12 months.
  • Following completion of Phase I, EPA will in Phase II establish thresholds for GWPs related to the production of each material or product category. EPA estimates that this process will take four to eight months for any material. Once a material or product category has published GWP thresholds, it can move to Phase III. Thresholds for materials will move through this process on a rolling basis.
  • In Phase III, EPA will certify and approve labels for materials and products that meet label criteria.


The resulting tiered approach could include the following label program eligibility criteria, from the strictest "substantially lower" standard to the easier to meet "better than average standard":

  • "Substantially Lower" label if the GWP of a product or material is substantially lower than industry averages for similar products or materials, as determined in Phase I and Phase II;
  • "Lower" if the GWP of a product or material is lower than industry averages for similar products or materials, as determined in Phase I and Phase II;
  • "Better than Average" if the GWP of a product or material is better than industry averages for similar products or materials, as determined in Phase I and Phase II.

Looking Ahead

EPA may need to clarify how the "lower than average" and "better than average" standards will differ, and the name for each category may change following completion of the label program branding and market strategy.

Comments on the draft approach are due on or before March 18, 2024.


[1] More on the IRA, the biggest climate legislation in U.S. history, here.

[2] The label program will use a conformity assessment and verification approach consistent with standards and best practices of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 1700 series, as well as the EPA's framework for assessing environmental performance.