Construction Bills: Recent Changes to Construction Laws

AuthorBy Brian R. Zimmerman and Rowan T. Mason
42 Volume 42 Issue 3
Published in
The Construction Lawyer
, Volume 42, Number 3. © 2023 American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not
be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
Combatting Climate Change
Through the Construction
Industry: A Recent Carrot
and Stick Legislative
Recently, governments at the
municipal, county, state, and
federal levels have enacted
codes and statutes with an eye
toward climate change impacts
and emissions goals. Some of
this legislation is intended to
be ameliorative, with legisla-
tion incentivizing construction
spending on green projects or
rules aimed at reducing or elim-
inating carbon-based emissions
sources. Other legislation is
aimed at mitigation of climate
change, with updated codes anticipating more extreme
weather events in the future, including rules on con-
struction considered more resistant to larger and more
intense hurricanes and wildres. The following sum-
marizes several recent developments in climate-focused
Incentivizing Greener Construction Projects
The recent passage of the federal Ination Reduction
Act (IRA), which was signed into law by President Biden
in August 2022, offers several incentives for greener con-
struction projects.1
The IRA provides $2.15 billion for spending on
“low-carbon” materials used in new construction or alter-
ation of buildings managed under the General Services
Administration (GSA).2 The GSA owns or leases more
than 9,600 buildings around the country.3 Low-carbon
materials include all materials that have “substantially
lower levels of embodied greenhouse gas emissions asso-
ciated with all relevant stages of production, use, and
disposal” as determined by the Environmental Protec-
tion Agency (EPA).
The IRA similarly grants another $2 billion for the
use of “low-carbon” materials on Federal Highway
Administration projects.
This focus on “low-carbon”
materials is part of a broader initiative by the current
administration to focus on cutting down the construc-
tion industry’s demand for steel, concrete, asphalt, and
at glass, which the administration cites as accounting
for one-sixth of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.5
Prohibiting Disfavored Carbon Emissions in New
Several states and municipalities have recently passed
laws affecting new construction intended to reduce green-
house gas emissions.
In California, as of November 2022, more than 68 cit-
ies and counties had enacted local ordinances banning
(or disincentivizing) the installation of natural gas appli-
ances in new construction.6
More aggressively, the City of Ithaca, New York
became the rst city to take it a step further by seeking to
convert all buildings to electric-only appliances by 2030.7
New York City has advanced an ambitious local ordi-
nance seeking to reduce building carbon emissions by
40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
New York
City’s ordinance was motivated in part by its nding that
buildings account for two-thirds of the city’s greenhouse
gas emissions.9
Colorado has followed suit with its own greenhouse
gas reduction bill, which also seeks to incentivize electri-
cation of new and existing buildings.10 Like New York
City, Colorado aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
by 20 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.11
Hazard-Resistant Building Code Updates
The federal government is pushing for nationwide updates
to building codes to encourage greener buildings and
to fortify building codes against weather events that are
expected to increase in frequency and/or intensity due
to climate change. The Biden administration, which
had dubbed its effort the New Building Codes Initiative,
emphasizes that implementation of updated building
codes will make communities “more resilient to hur-
ricanes, ooding, wildres, and other extreme weather
events that are intensifying due to climate change.”12
Among the statistics cited as the impetus for the initia-
tive, the administration highlights that only 35 percent of
U.S. communities follow the latest building codes, mean-
ing that even new construction in those communities may
be less resilient against extreme weather and less energy
The Biden administration plans to implement this ini-
tiative through a series of means. First, it will empower
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
to implement the most current building codes wherever
permissible when administering FEMA programs.
assist in this effort, the Department of Energy has allo-
cated $225 million to support local energy-efciency
codes, in what it terms the Resilient and Efcient Codes
Rowan T. Mason
Brian R. Zimmerman
By Rowan T. Mason and
Brian R. Zimmerman
42 42 7/18/2023 1:52:10 PM7/18/2023 1:52:10 PM

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