The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey says it reached an important milestone in a nearly three-year-old sustainable construction and design initiative. The agency announced earlier this month what it calls "industry leading" low-carbon concrete requirements for contractors building its future projects. While setting maximum allowable carbon limits, the policy also allows conditional inclusion of ground glass and Portland-limestone cement—which is engineered with a higher limestone content that needs less energy to produce than typical cement mixes.

In addition to adopting more environmentally conscious concrete specifications, the authority is launching the final phase of a pilot program to research sustainable concrete and says it will continue to test “innovative mixes at its facilities to further reduce the carbon emissions of its capital projects."

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The authority’s concrete mix formulas—based on research conducted with its academic partners—will provide guidance for other construction sectors heavily reliant on concrete, the agency says.

“The Port Authority is committed to researching sustainable practices for our infrastructure plans to improve the quality of life for communities we serve,” Kevin O’Toole, Port Authority chairman said in a statement. “We are proud to partner with students and faculty at our local universities in initiating change towards a cleaner future.”

For the last two years, the authority has partnered with Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University and New York University to create and test concrete mixes with different recycled materials. The agency says it has identified 18 concrete recipes that can reduce emissions by up to 37% compared to its previous batches of low-carbon concrete mixes. 

Mandating sustainable concrete mixes to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is an effort the agency calls “one of the most ambitious low-carbon concrete programs of its kind among U.S. transportation agencies.”

“The update of our concrete technical requirements is a major milestone as the agency continues its aggressive efforts to drive down the embodied carbon of concrete and other major building materials,” Rick Cotton, authority executive director, said in the statement.