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FORD PLANT GREEN ROOF : work

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How did this design improve life?:
Lying at the center of the Ford Rouge revitalization project in Dearborn, Michigan, this new truck assembly plant represents Ford’s bold efforts to rethink the ecological footprint of a large manufacturing facility. The design synthesizes an emphasis on a safe and healthy workplace with an approach that optimizes the impact of industrial activity on the external environment.

More importantly, the Ford project needs to be understood in its broader context. It is the largest example to-date of a significant worldwide trend of “Green Roof” technology that will be transformative for both industrial as well as urban environments worldwide. A summary of the larger trend is at the end of this description.

The keystone of the Ford Rouge stormwater management system is the plant's 10-acre (454,000 sf) "living" roof --- the largest in the world. This green roof is expected to retain half the annual rainfall that falls on its surface. The roof will also provide habitat, decrease the building's energy costs, and protect the roof membrane from thermal shock and UV degradation, thereby extending its life.

An innovative and inexpensive hanging trellis with deciduous climbing vines envelops many areas of the plant's exterior, creating both shade and additional habitat.

Worker amenities inside the plant include light monitors and skylights that ensure abundant daylight on the factory floor. Above the activity of the main work areas, mezzanine-level walkways house team rooms and a cafeteria.

An innovative air delivery system, in which the building serves as a giant pressurized duct, produces breakthroughs in energy use, operational flexibility, and worker comfort.

With the sound of nesting songbirds chirping over factory workers’ heads, the new Dearborn Truck Plant offers a glimpse of the transformative possibilities suggested by this new model for sustaining industry.

Working with Michigan State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Detroit Edison and other partners, Ford has introduced a number of unusual environmental-related features at its new Rouge truck plant in Dearborn, which opened in April west of Detroit.

Most notable is the "living roof," 10.4 acres of green space atop the truck factory that is filled with plants, flowers and a perennial ground cover called sedum that insulates the building, thus lowering energy costs, and is expected to double the normal useful life of the roof.

There are other features, too, including a "Fumes to Fuel" system that converts paint exhaust fumes into electrical power; a storm water management system that collects water and reuses it for various purposes throughout the plant complex; and a plant floor illuminated by natural light that floods in through skylights.

Outside, there is a parking lot for new trucks that is covered with a porous material that absorbs rainwater, filters it through layers of stones and reuses it elsewhere in the plant. And there are 20,000 honeybees that live in three hives on plant grounds, helping -- a Ford spokesman says -- to "create a lush natural setting that attracts birds, insects and small animals."

"Nowhere else has there been a plant that has been built to such high environmental standards," said Russell Long, executive director of the Bluewater Network, a national environmental group that has been critical of Ford for failing to improve gas mileage as much as it has pledged to do.

Still, Ford maintains the plant -- part of a $2 billion remake of its storied 600-acre, 87-year-old Rouge manufacturing complex that took in raw materials on one end and spit out cars on the other -- and its recent introduction of a hybrid Ford Escape SUV represent a shift by the automaker to become a more responsible steward of global resources.

Anyone who sees old pictures of the Rouge complex would marvel at that viewpoint. Old pictures dating decades back show a quintessential American industrial plant spewing out clouds of smoke, soot, and all the pollutants that were associated with manufacturing at that time.

"We're working to improve environmental performance of our vehicles, but it can't be done overnight. We need to balance customer needs and environmental needs," said Jon Harmon, public affairs manager for the Ford division.

"People who buy F-150 pickups need a certain amount of capability for towing and hauling. And the F-150 is the most environmentally friendly pickup you can make," he said. "It's misguided to expect all customers to drive small cars that get 40 miles per gallon."

The criticisms aside, it is clear that the new truck plant is an attention-getter. Tours sell out regularly, and advanced reservations are required. A good number of its visitors want to see the plant because they want to see if its features can be duplicated elsewhere.

"Bill Ford said that he wanted to share what we are doing here with others, so the sustainable elements and the environmental aspects of the complex are being shown to others all the time," said James M. Graham, community renewal and heritage program manager at Ford.

"Every day we bring in people from other countries and governments ... who want to see how these ideas can be used," he said. "We know, for instance, that green roofs can be done on a lot of buildings, and the porous asphalt material we use on the grounds can be used effectively elsewhere."

The company has won 20 awards for various parts of the site or for the whole complex itself. They include Facility of the Year from Environmental Protection Magazine, the Gold LEED Award from the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ford also has planted 30,000 bushes, flowers and trees on the Rouge complex that company officials say were selected to test the effectiveness of using certain plants to clean soil. And it is experimenting with a process in which plants remove and detoxify environmental pollutants in the soil.

Of course, looking at the stunned expressions on visitors' faces when they tour the plant, environmental considerations aren't likely to be the first things on their minds. There's too much activity, sensory stimulation and information to focus on much of anything else.

The center features two multimedia experiences -- you sit in the middle of a huge room and are surrounded by sights and sounds. One focuses on the colorful history of the Rouge complex, while the other takes you through a visual tour of the building of trucks, from raw material to finished product. What's more, you experience the sounds, feel and smells associated with the construction as you sit and view the surrounding visual display.

But the centerpiece is the assembly floor. Lit by huge skylights, and featuring unusually wide aisles, the plant is much more quiet than most, and workers seem to be relaxed as they do their tasks.

There are features such as platforms that raise the trucks up to cut down on fatigue and stretching, and mechanisms that employees have dubbed "happy seats" that allow the workers to sit inside the trucks as they assemble the seats and interior.

Visitors enjoy the process via a system of overhead walkways that look down on the assembly line floor. Colorful signs and multimedia presentations are provided at each stop of the assembly process, and visitors can enjoy it all at their own pace without being rushed through.


'Green' Roofs Sprout Up All Over
National Public Radio recently broadcast the following special story on the Green Roof movement

Portland's Multnomah County Building features an eco-roof completed in the summer of 2003.

Eco-roof -- with views of downtown Portland, Ore. -- sits atop a high-rise affordable housing project.

Morning Edition, June 23, 2004 • It all started in ancient Mesopotamia. That's how old the idea of “green” roofs is. From the Ziggurat of Nanna to the fabled hanging gardens of Babylon, humans have been growing plants on roofs. Turf and sod have topped an array of human dwellings -- but the emergence of a bona fide green roof industry is fairly recent.
Here in the United States, that industry is just a few years old. But green roofs are being touted as the answer to a number of environmental problems -- and they're showing up all over the country. NPR's Ketzel Levine reports.
Commercial green roofs are not roof gardens; many of them can't take foot traffic. Instead, they're like green skins, layers of vegetative matter that grow directly on rooftops. They are far less romantic than they sound.
Green roofs are tools for dealing with stormwater runoff and reducing urban heat islands. Other industry claims include their ability to reduce energy use by insulating buildings from extreme temperatures. The scientific data to support these and other benefits are still being collected, but based on how they've performed -- for decades -- in Germany and the Netherlands, green-roof specialists are confident in their curative powers.
A growing number of architects, engineers, urban ecologists and city planners agree. Increasingly high-profile green roof projects have been built in the United States in the last five years. Among the best-known green roofs are the ones atop Chicago's City Hall and a Ford Motor Co. facility in Dearborn, Mich. Some of the newer roofs making the news include a residential high-rise in New York City, a prairie-covered library in Evansville, Ind., and the top of the Multnomah County Building in Portland, Ore.

Portland, Seattle, Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta, Vancouver, New York City, and Tokyo are among cities initiating major green roof programs.


Related NPR Stories

Apr. 3, 2004
Group Pushes for Rooftop Gardens

Jan. 23, 2004
New York City In 2050

Nov. 29, 1999
Rooftop Gardens Seen Cutting Pollution

Aug. 22, 2001
Up On a Roof

Ketzel Levine's Talking Plants
Name of Designer(s):
William McDonough, FAIA, - Russell K. Perry, (partner-in-charge); -
Designers professional status:
Professional
Status of realization:
Realized
Kind of design:
Tangible
Produced by:
Ford Motor
Year of production, realization or publishing:
2004
Designed in country:
United States
Used on continents:
North America
Short description of design:
Lying at the center of the Ford Rouge revitalization project in Dearborn, Michigan, this new truck assembly plant represents Ford’s bold efforts to rethink the ecological footprint of a large manufacturing facility. With its grass-covered roof and pollution-eating plants and energy-recycling infrastructure, the Ford Rouge plant is built to the highest environmental standards of any industrial facility in the world. The design synthesizes an emphasis on a safe and healthy workplace with an approach that optimizes the impact of industrial activity on the external environment.

With the sound of nesting songbirds chirping over factory workers’ heads, the new Dearborn Truck Plant offers a glimpse of the transformative possibilities suggested by this new model for sustaining industry.

More importantly, the Ford project needs to be understood in its broader context. It is the largest example to-date of a significant worldwide trend of “Green Roof” technology that will be transformative for both industrial as well as urban environments worldwide.
Functionallity and use of design:
The keystone of the Ford Rouge stormwater management system is the plant's 10-acre (454,000 sf) "living" roof --- the largest in the world. This green roof is expected to retain half the annual rainfall that falls on its surface. The roof will also provide habitat, decrease the building's energy costs, and protect the roof membrane from thermal shock and UV degradation, thereby extending its life.

An innovative and inexpensive hanging trellis with deciduous climbing vines envelops many areas of the plant's exterior, creating both shade and additional habitat.

Worker amenities inside the plant include light monitors and skylights that ensure abundant daylight on the factory floor. Above the activity of the main work areas, mezzanine-level walkways house team rooms and a cafeteria.

An innovative air delivery system, in which the building serves as a giant pressurized duct, produces breakthroughs in energy use, operational flexibility, and worker comfort. Personal Bus.

Working with Michigan State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Detroit Edison, William McDonough + Partners Architects, and other partners, Ford has introduced a number of unusual environmental-related features at its new Rouge truck plant in Dearborn, which opened in April west of Detroit.

Most notable is a "living roof," 10.4 acres of green space atop the truck factory that is filled with plants, flowers and a perennial ground cover called sedum that insulates the building, thus lowering energy costs, and is expected to double the normal useful life of the roof.

There are other features, too, including a "Fumes to Fuel" system that converts paint exhaust fumes into electrical power; a storm water management system that collects water and reuses it for various purposes throughout the plant complex; and a plant floor illuminated by natural light that floods in through skylights.

Outside, there is a parking lot for new trucks that is covered with a porous material that absorbs rainwater, filters it through layers of stones and reuses it elsewhere in the plant. And there are 20,000 honeybees that live in three hives on plant grounds, helping -- a Ford spokesman says -- to "create a lush natural setting that attracts birds, insects and small animals."

The design of the plant draws upon the recommendations of William McDonough in his book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (North Point Press, 2002). The key is to think in terms of a big loop. Depending on their “nutrients,” two kinds of materials can potentially flow in a continuous loop: biological and mineral (which includes synthetic). Recycling allows materials to safely “loop” through the environment and nourish living systems, or be remanufactured into new materials. A cradle-to-cradle structure is built from these materials.

Drawbacks of life improvement:
Can a producer of gas-burning, pollutant-emitting vehicles and people concerned about the environment ever learn to like each other? Probably not, but even ardent environmentalists are giving Ford Motor Co. high marks for its newest plant -- even if they don't much care for what it makes.
Critics argue that in and of itself, the green roof is not necessarily worth applauding, given that the sod roof obscures both literally and figuratively the tremendous harm being caused by the F-150 pickups being built under it."

Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, agrees. "Whatever they did to the plant is marvelous, but if they're producing pickup trucks that pollute too much, what are they accomplishing?"
Research and need:
The design was developed by Ford working with Michigan State University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Detroit Edison, William McDonough + Partners Architects, and other partners, The design exemplifies the concept of “Cradle to Cradle Home Design” as developed by design pioneers William McDonough, FAIA, and Michael Braungart as a strategy for developing “ecologically intelligent products that generate economic, social, and environmental benefits at every phase of their use.”
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