Living Roof Case Study - The Ford Rouge Factory

Living Roof Case Study - Ford Rouge Factory
Living Roof Case Study - Ford Rouge Factory

*UPDATE Feb. 2015* Ford completely redesigned their flagship truck the F-150, turning it into the first truck built with an all-aluminum frame. Aluminum reduces the trucks' weight, resulting in great performance with greatly improved fuel efficiency. The F-150 is assembled at the Rouge Factory, so Ford has spent almost $5 million to upgrade the tour and better tell the F-150 story.A new theater...Lasers!! Robots!! Learn more about the newly renovated tour at the Detroit Free Press HERE!

One of the more interesting environmental stories in recent years here in Michigan has been Ford's amazing transformation of its aging Rouge Factory into a showcase for green design and environmental stewardship.

Located just south of Detroit on the banks of the Rouge and Detroit Rivers, the Rouge complex was a virtual city of 93 buildings with almost 16 million square feet of floor area and 120 miles of conveyors. At its peak in the 1930s, more than 100,000 people were employed at the Rouge facilities, producing a new car every 49 seconds.

After years of decreased production at the complex and decades of environmental abuse at the site, Ford made a decision to renovate the site rather than abandoning the aging brownfield site. Their decision is leading the way in green design, which over time will earn Ford money back through lower energy costs, lower maintenance costs, and a healthier working environment for employees. All of this while protecting, even improving, the environment.

Ford has introduced many new concepts at the Rouge plant, including the use of non-toxic and recycled materials, renewing degraded soil, and utilizing daylight and fresh air to reduce lighting and cooling costs. As a result of their efforts, the Ford Rouge Complex was LEED certified in 2003.

One of the more exciting aspects of the Rouge Complex 'greenover' is the Living Roof, which is helping Ford reduce the amount of stormwater sent into the Rouge River from the plant, and it's a terrific case study for anybody considering a green living roof (a much smaller one than Ford's!) for their home.

The Ford Rouge Factory Living Roof: Better Roofing Through Sedum

The living roof at the Ford Rouge Center is the largest in the world at 454,000 square feet. That's 10.4 acres of clean, green, beneficial roofing that's benefiting and cleaning the environment rather than harming it.

The living roof at the Ford Rouge complex consists of sedum, which is a very drought-resistant perennial groundcover plant. The sedum roof's main function is to collect and filter rainwater to reduce stormwater runoff. The living roof works in conjunction with permeable pavements, underground water storage tanks, and on-site wetlands to reduce the overall runoff, while simultaneously improving water quality.

More Benefits of a Sedum Living Roof

Ford Rouge Factory Tour
Ford Rouge Factory Tour

Another benefit of the Rouge Living Roof, and any green living roof, is its cooling effect on surrounding areas. The sedum on the roof reduces the urban heat island effect created by sun-soaked asphalt and concrete surfaces.

The sedum plants also insulate the building, reducing heating and cooling costs by 5 percent. Sedum also traps airborne dust and dirt, absorbs carbon dioxide, and creates pure oxygen. Imagine birds, butterflies, and other insects calling your roof home!

In addition to the insulating, cooling, and cleaning qualities of a sedum living roof, the living roof also extends the life of the roof by protecting the structure from damaging ultraviolet radiation and the expansion and contraction caused by temperature swings. The Ford living roof is predicted to last twice as long as a conventional roof, saving the company millions of dollars.

To create the green living roof at the Ford Rouge plant, sedum is planted in a thin, four layer mat. This lightweight design weighs under 15 pounds per square foot, even when soaked with water.

From Ford to You: Living Roofs Work!

Ford has done everybody interested in green, sustainable design a huge favor by demonstrating, on a massive industrial scale, the benefits and advantages of a living roof. As part of the Henry Ford Museum, anybody can visit the Rouge Factory Complex and tour the facility and all of its state of the art environmental features, including the living roof. It's a fascinating trip to see what a company with vision can accomplish, and inspiring for anyone thinking of building a green home. (By the way, it's also a pretty cool place to watch cars and trucks being made, too!)

The Ford River Rouge Factory Tour, The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village are great places for fun and educational field trips for students. For teachers looking for interesting and engaging activities while at the Rouge Factory Tour, click HERE.

For tour info and more information on Ford's green transformation of the Rouge Complex, visit theFord Rouge Plant site.

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