Pressures on the construction industry to reduce carbon emissions are coming from both policymakers and the free market. Federal regulators and lawmakers in some states are requiring carbon reporting on public projects. In the private sector, some owners and developers are including embodied carbon-reduction goals in procurement documents. A new guide from the Associated General Contractors of America, The AGC Playbook on Decarbonization and Carbon Reporting in the Construction Industry, is intended to help contractors navigate the changing marketplace.

The guide has a four-step process for determining accountability for the various carbon emissions associated with construction. The process considers the project delivery method, whether the owner’s budget or the contractor’s ability to implement lower carbon options is prioritized, and who is responsible for tracking or reducing carbon emissions among project stakeholders in contract documents. It then sets out potential accountability for different sources of embodied carbon on a project—from materials, equipment and their transportation, to onsite fuel use, waste management and post-construction operations.

They shapers of the document wanted to put a process in place that uses guidance from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which is a common framework for measuring and managing emissions, and helps the partners on a project discuss and understand the options available to them, Joe Rozza, chief sustainability officer at Ryan Cos. and co-chair of the committee that produced the playbook, said during an April 22 call with the media. 

“If we don’t have a process for talking about this, you wind up with partners that maybe should have accountability for carbon footprint, but are completely unaware,” Rozza said. “And you have the risk of double-counting certain emission sources while some emission sources are not counted at all.”

The guide also includes resources for contractors new to carbon accounting, said Myrrh Caplan, vice president of sustainability at Skanska and co-chair of the playbook committee. Those include job descriptions for checking if contractors already have an employee with the aptitude to do the work, as well as request for qualification language for contractors that need to hire external consultants. 

“We tried to make this as easy as possible,” Caplan said. 

AGC worked with various firms to produce the guide. The group included contractors representing a range of specialties, from vertical construction to water and utility infrastructure to transportation, as well as firms working in development, design and other related services. The authors said they wanted to create a document that took a common approach across different construction sectors. 

A prepublication version of the playbook is currently available, and AGC says it plans to release the published version on its website by the end of the month. 

The playbook is part of AGC’s priorities to ensure that the construction industry plays a leading role in crafting carbon reduction measures, said Brian Turmail, the group’s vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives.

“This is important for a variety of reasons, particularly in an environment where governments at every level and a growing number of construction owners are exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of construction and the overall built environment,” he said.