Technical Feasibility, Cost-effectiveness, and Policy Strategies for Reducing Embodied Carbon in Building Materials
- Sustainable Communities & Climate Protection Program
- Sustainable Communities
- Policy & Research Briefs
- Project Solicitation
- Pre-Proposal FAQs
- Technical Feasibility, Cost-effectiveness, and Policy Strategies for Reducing Embodied Carbon in Building Materials
- White Paper: Toxic Air Contaminant Emissions from Fossil Gas Appliances in California
- Regional Propane and Woodburning Utilization in Commercial and Residential Buildings across California
- Impacts of Telecommuting and Remote Services on Transportation, Land Use, And Climate Change
- Sustainable Communities Strategies Evaluation Process Update
- Guidance and Best Practices for Development of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Vehicle Miles Traveled Mitigation Banks or Exchanges
- Developing an Equity Evaluation Framework for Place-Based, Community-Scale Mobility Investments
- Evaluate the Potential Quantification of Community Garden Project Benefits
- Quantification Methodology Development for Air Filtration, Microgrid, and Electric Bicycle Incentive Projects
- Regional Plans & Evaluations
- Regional Plan Targets
- SB 150 Data Dashboard
- Active Transportation
Assembly Bill (AB) 2446 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop a framework for measuring and reducing the average carbon intensity of the materials used in the construction of new buildings, and to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce embodied greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in building materials. To assist CARB in achieving the bill’s goals, the objectives of this study are to 1) evaluate the technical feasibility and market readiness of low-carbon construction materials/alternatives in California, 2) examine and compare the lifecycle cost (LCC) of conventional construction materials and their low-carbon alternatives along with their environmental impacts and overall cost-effectiveness, and 3) analyze the feasibility of a range of policy strategies to reduce embodied carbon in building materials and provide recommendations to CARB on which strategies are most likely to be effective in achieving the bill’s goals. The results of this study will inform CARB’s implementation of AB 2446.
California has committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality no later than 2045. Since buildings are a large source of GHG emissions, building decarbonization is a high priority in California state policy., California has made (and continues to make) considerable progress in reducing GHG emissions from buildings through energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, and building electrification. As a result, embodied carbon in the materials used to construct buildings represents an increasingly large share of remaining building-related emissions, accounting for up to 50 percent of total GHG emissions.,
Embodied carbon refers to the lifecycle GHG emissions of building materials resulting from the extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of goods; AB 2446 focuses primarily on emissions from the materials production stage. Tackling embodied carbon in new construction is critical for ensuring that California can achieve its housing and climate goals, because housing production in California is anticipated to ramp up significantly over the next 10 years.
AB 2446 requires CARB to develop a framework for measuring and reducing the carbon intensity of construction materials with a target of a 40 percent net reduction in GHG emissions of building materials no later than the end of 2035, and an interim target of a 20 percent net reduction by the end of 2030. The bill also requires CARB to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve the targets feasibly and cost-competitively. Research indicates that embodied carbon can be reduced through strategies such as the optimal use of building materials with high-recycled or low-carbon products.
Building on the efforts of a CARB-funded embodied carbon whitepaper contract, which will deliver the background information and the quantification method by the summer of 2024, this project will focus on in-depth assessments of technology, market, cost-effectiveness, and policy instruments. This project will examine the capacity of feasible technologies and policy instruments, and will support CARB in developing a cost-effective and feasible strategy.
III. Scope of Work
Task 1 – Evaluate the Technical Feasibility and Market Readiness of Low-carbon Products
The contractor will evaluate the technical feasibility and market readiness of a range of existing and emerging low-carbon building materials. The feasibility criteria should include, but need not be limited to: (1) capability of being installed in a successful manner within a reasonable period of time, taking into account economic, environmental, legal, social, and technological factors, (2) potential impacts to the health or safety of those who install the materials or occupy the building, (3) ability to provide an equivalent function and at a minimum, the same useful life, performance, and durability as substituted baseline technologies/products, (4) commercially availability in California, (5) whether the product has been involved in a claim for a construction or design defect, breach of express or implied warranty, fraud, or misrepresentation.
Task 2 – Examine the Lifecycle Cost and Cost-effectiveness of Low-carbon Products
The contractor will conduct lifecycle cost (LCC) analyses for the building materials evaluated in Task 1 specific to California. The scope of the LCC analysis should include materials production (A1-A3), construction (A4-A5), maintenance and use (B1-B5), end-of-life (C1-C4), and reuse/recovery (D). The analyses will compare conventional and low-carbon alternative products and highlight the cost difference in all phases including product function, transportation, and additional (professional) labor costs. The contractor will also determine the cost-effectiveness of each product based on LCC results and its lifecycle environmental impacts/benefits obtained from the product’s environmental product declaration (EPD) or other lifecycle assessment studies. The results can also help CARB to identify the feasibility of low-carbon alternative/technology by lifecycle phases.
Task 3 – Examine the Feasibility of Reduction Strategies for California
The contractor will assess (quantitatively to the extent possible) worldwide measures and strategies to reduce embodied carbon including direct regulations, incentives, and market mechanisms such as border adjustment charges in a cap-and-trade program, low-carbon product standards, or other emission trading schemes. The contractor will also evaluate measures and policy instruments appropriate to California’s construction industry in terms of reduction potential and social cost impacts including incremental costs of a new building. The contractor may want to identify the vulnerable populations, for example affordable housing applicants or small and medium construction firms, who may be disproportionally impacted by the measures, and address possible solutions. Results of this task should provide quantified data and a comparison of pros and cons and an assessment of the feasibility of a range of measures/policy instruments.
Task 4 – Strategy and Policy Recommendations
Based on the results of Tasks 1-3 and in consultation with CARB program staff, Task 4 will develop policy recommendations to reduce embodied carbon emissions from new construction.
Task 5 – Reports
The project will include the preparation of two interim reports and a final report. An interim report shall be completed after all assessments regarding market, technology/product, and cost-effectiveness analysis included in Task 1 and 2. The other report about the assessment of policy instruments shall highlight the findings and suggestion after completing Task 3. The final report will document all literature reviews, methodologies, data analysis, and processes employed in the completion of the project and include a plain-language summary of policy recommendations.
The project pre-proposal must include but is not limited to the following deliverables:
At Pre-Proposal Stage
- Provide a cultural competency statement in the pre-proposal.
- Provide a candidate list of low-carbon construction products/ technologies for LCC analysis in the pre-proposal.
At Beginning of Contract
- All contractors must undergo cultural competency training (examples include implicit bias training, racial equity training, etc.). Trainings should be completed or scheduled within 30 days of contract execution.
- Work with CARB staff at the beginning of the project to create a 1-page plain-language outreach deliverable for the public describing the project’s goals, process, and planned deliverables (available in multiple languages, template will be provided).
During Active Contract Period
- Quarterly Progress Reports including public-facing updates to be posted to CARB’s website.
- Quarterly Progress Meetings.
- Informal monthly progress update meetings with CARB contract manager.
Prior to Contract Close
- Draft and Final two interim reports.
- Draft final report.
- Final Report.
- Seminar presenting summary of results.
- Presentation summarizing findings at community meeting(s) or workshop(s).
- Draft and Final 2-page project summary for public outreach.
- All literature reviews, data, analyses and analytical tools generated through the course of this project.
- Peer reviewed publications should be publicly available (please budget for this expense; submission-ready publications shall be reviewed by CARB staff).
Additional deliverables to be determined in consultation with CARB staff.
It is anticipated this project will be completed in 24 months from the start date (start date is estimated to be in Spring 2024). The estimated budget for this project is up to $600,000.
1. Responsiveness to the goals and objectives outlined in the pre-proposal solicitation (20 points)
The pre-proposal should explain—in adequate detail and clear, understandable language—how the proposed project satisfies the project objectives: enhance CARB’s understanding of the 1) the emerging technologies and market of low-carbon building materials/alternatives in California, 2) the cost-effectiveness of low-carbon products in terms of LCC, and 3) the feasibility of reduction strategies for California to achieve the Bill’s goal. Creative policy and strategy designs are also encouraged.
2. Work experience and subject matter expertise (20 points)
The pre-proposal should demonstrate that the proposers have the work experience or subject matter expertise required to successfully carry out the proposed project as described. Additionally, the pre-proposal should describe how the project will build upon previous relevant work that was funded by CARB, other regional, state, and federal agencies. The proposers should have knowledge of building materials regarding embodied carbon and other innovative technology of low-carbon alternatives, as well as an understating of the application limitations and market barriers. The proposers may want to include team members with an expertise of economics about the evaluation of policy instruments.
3. Expanding expertise (20 points)
The pre-proposal should explain how the project team expands expertise such as by incorporating multidisciplinary expertise or perspectives, including members come from various public universities, non-academic institutions, or community-based organizations, or providing opportunities to build skills and expertise for individuals from underrepresented groups. Reviewers will consider if key personnel contributing significantly to the project (i.e., a principal investigator, co-principal investigator or co-investigator, contributing 25 percent or more of their time to the project) have not worked with CARB in the past five years.
4. Explanation of technical or methodological approach (20 points)
The pre-proposal should clearly explain the logic and feasibility of the methodology and technical approach to the project, spell out the sequence and relationships of major tasks, and explain methods for performing the work. The pre-proposal should include a clear description and plan for how each task will be completed. The proposer should specify why the methodology proposed is the best method to reach the desired populations.
5. Level and quality of effort and cost effectiveness (20 points)
The pre-proposal should describe how time and resources will be allocated and demonstrate how this allocation ensures the project’s success. Pre-proposal reviewers will evaluate, for example: if the objectives of the project can be met given this allocation, if there is adequate supervision and oversight to ensure that the project will remain on schedule, if time and cost are appropriately divvied up across different project tasks and stages, etc.
 Governor Newsom. 2022. “Governor Newsom’s Ambitious Climate Proposals Presented to Legislature.” Available at:
 California Air Resources Board. 2022. “Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update – Achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2045.” Available at:
 California Energy Commission. 2022. “Final 2021 Integrated Energy Policy Report.” Available at:
 Esau, R., M. Jungclaus, V. Olgyay, and A. Rempher. 2021. "Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings: Low-Cost, High-Value Opportunities." RMI. Available at: https://rmi.org/insight/reducing-embodied-carbon-in-buildings/.
 California Energy Commission. 2022. “Final 2021 Integrated Energy Policy Report.” Available at:
 Carbon Leadership Forum. 2022. “Embodied Carbon Policy Strategies: Presentation.” Available at:
 Housing and Community Development. 2022. “Regional Housing Needs Allocation.” Available at: