Some of the information in this article has been superseded by the new Build America, Buy America (BABA) law which went into effect on May 14, 2022. You can read about the new BABA law that governs domestic preferences for iron and steel (AIS), manufactured products and construction materials here: What is Build America, Buy America (BABA)? Expanding The Requirements of AIS Domestic Preferences
Flanges, fittings, and piping system components must meet certain requirements for use, such as DIN (metric) standards or AWWA specifications. These designations cover safety and application conditions, but other specifications, such as Buy America, Buy American, and American Iron and Steel (AIS), establish requirements for where components may be sourced from, and where manufacturing and finishing must occur. These specifications may be designated by funding source, project type, or regional or federal requirements.
Buy America Versus Buy American Act
What Is Buy America?
The Buy America Act is a requirement applied to infrastructure projects that use federal funding to ensure taxpayer-funded grants are used to purchase American-made components rather than non-domestic parts. Buy America, which applies to state and local government level projects funded by the Federal Transit Authority (FTA), requires the construction materials are 100% domestic.
To comply with Buy America, the manufacturing processes, including refining, forming, and finishing, must occur within the USA using domestically produced materials—with some exceptions for refining steel additives or raw materials not covered by the Buy America requirement.
Buy America generally applies to infrastructure projects and requires domestically produced components. The FTA may waive the requirements and allow materials sourced from a list of approved countries, if necessary—such as if domestic availability is low or too expensive.
What Is Buy American?
Buy American—this time with an n—covers a wider variety of projects and is more likely the specification followed for the purchases of flanges and piping system components. The Buy American Act was signed in 1933 to require that materials purchased for government-related projects are forged and machined by American manufacturers. The law applies to the purchase of end products intended for use within the USA, with a requirement that the items are manufactured with at least 50% domestic materials.
Your project may fall under the Buy American Act if you receive funding from the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFAR), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and other government agencies. These contracts may apply to construction or maintenance projects including public works projects, public schools, municipal offices, pump stations, airports, or plants.
Products that fall under Buy American—including water infrastructure projects such as water treatment and public water systems—include, but are not limited to:
- Fittings and accessories
- Flanged pipes
Buy American and Buy America each give preference to domestically produced materials and products, but the requirements are different. In either case, failure to comply may result in the removal of federal funding if the project materials are deemed ineligible.
What Is AIS (American Iron and Steel)?
For projects that have received federal funding for the construction, repair, or maintenance of public waterworks, American Iron and Steel (AIS) rules may apply. Some funding sources that require AIS compliance include Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, Rural Utilities Service, and Water and Environmental Programs. Components that fall under these requirements include pipes, flanges, valves, couplings, connectors, and other fittings. AIS does not apply to filtration system tanks, electrical components, mechanical equipment, or other non-construction materials.
The AIS standard allows the use of imported raw components, but the material must be melted and manufactured in the United States. Similarly, recycled source materials such as iron or steel scrap are considered acceptable raw materials under AIS, as long as the flanges, fittings, or other piping components are processed, machined, and finished in the USA.
Are AIS, Buy America, and Buy American the Same?
While similar to Buy America and Buy American specifications, and though AIS products may comply with these measures, they are separate requirements that are not interchangeable. AIS products are determined to be in compliance via certification letter that confirms products fulfill domestic preference laws. Materials may be substituted with permission via project waivers that permit alternatives due to insufficient or costly (25 percent or more project cost increase) USA-produced materials. If AIS components are not available, Buy America components may be a proper substitute—though they may be more expensive.
Does “Made in America/USA” Ensure Compliance?
A “Made in the USA” designation does not guarantee that the finished product complies with all AIS, Buy America, or Buy American requirements. Further documentation is required to ensure the raw materials or manufacturing methods meet required conditions—a Mill Cert or MTR is used to confirm compliance with AIS or Buy American requirements.
Made in America/Made in USA designations only ensure a USA-based production location—but this does not mean the manufacturer used domestic materials. Because Made in USA products may not be manufactured of domestic materials, this label does not ensure compliance with AIS, Buy American, or Buy America which require the materials, processing, and production must all take place within the United States.
Similarly, a USA-based company that manufactures products in a facility located outside of the USA does not meet the requirements for Buy America. The products must be produced within the USA.