A project to upgrade the facade of the Charles E. Whittaker U.S. Courthouse in Kansas City, Mo., will use low-embodied carbon glass and steel as part of a Biden administration “buy clean” initiative to prioritize materials associated with lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. 

The U.S. General Services Administration announced on Feb. 7 that it awarded a $62.4-million contract to JE Dunn Construction Co. for the work. 

The project involves installing 100,000 sq ft of windows. Officials have projected their thermal protection will provide a 2.6% annual energy savings. The project will use glass supplied by Vitro Architectural Glass, which meets low-embodied carbon material requirements for flat glass under the Inflation Reduction Act. The 2022 law provided the General Services Administration with $2.2 billion to buy and install low-embodied carbon construction materials.

The agency said it plans to procure the glass over the next 18 months from the glass producer's Carlisle, Pa., flat glass plant. Robin Carnahan, GSA administrator, said in a statement that the firm is an example of “American manufacturers that are creating innovative products, driving sustainability and creating good-paying manufacturing jobs.”

JE Dunn is based about a block away from the federal courthouse and is the contractor that originally constructed the building in the 1990s. Ryan Watzke, a vice president, said in a statement that the company shares “GSA’s commitment to construction innovation and to providing federal employees and agencies with high-performing facilities.”

The work is part of a larger $96-million facade project planned to improve courthouse energy efficiency, as well as comfort and security for those inside, according to GSA. The plan also includes roof repairs and replacement of a curtainwall the agency says is deteriorating. Construction is set to start later this month and complete in 2026.

The courthouse project is one of 11 pilot projects across the country for low-embodied carbon that the General Services Administration has in various stages of procurement, with plans for more. The agency is also using another $975 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to upgrade federal buildings with sustainable technology and $250 million to build conversions that improve their energy efficiency. 

GSA has a goal to make its entire building portfolio have net-zero emissions by 2045.