Green Building at its Finest at the Ford Rouge Factory

When Ford knocked on my door to visit their headquarter in January, I hemmed and hawed  not because of Ford, but who wants to go to Detroit in January?  Can you say bone chilling? (Been there, done that.)  But they knew how to get a green building geek girl wobbly at the knees and beg for me.  Wave a green building tour in front of her nose.  And yes, we were headed to Ford’s Rouge Factory with its scrumptious green attributes.

And I wasn’t disappointed.  (Do you see me in the above picture? With a smile all over my face? No, I am not the man in the picture.)

Green Roof

Ford Green Roof

Ford Green Roof by Nature Mom

The Rogue’s living green roof which is atop o f the Dearborn Truck Plant  is 10.4 acres and is part of an $18 million dollar rainwater treatment facility.  The roof contains sedum, which is drought resistant perennial groundcover.  The picture doesn’t give the plants justice since they are dormant.  During the growing season they are beautiful plants.  In the fall, when they bloom the wasp love them.  (Do you have to ask if I own this plant?)

The beauty of a living roof is that it’s like a hat for the roof in the winter and sunglasses in the summer.  It keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter since it insulates the roof.  Most roof are black asphalt which heats up the building during the summer.  According to Ford, the roof reduces the heating and cooling costs by 5 percent.  In addition, the green roof adds to the life of the original roof.  Ford states this roof will last at least two times longer than a conventional roof.

In addition, to the biodiversity of birds, butterflies, and bees that a living roof attracts, it also helps to clean the outdoor air by trapping dust and absorbing carbon dioxide.  In turn, the roof creates oxygen.

As you can tell, I am a green roof junkie.   Green Building + gardening.  What’s not to love.   For more information about green roofs, see my article about  Live Roof® , a  green roof modular system.  It contains a podcast and video interview with the founder.

Storm Water Management

The Rouge offers a complex natural storm water management system.  Most of the rainwater that falls on the roof is absorbed by the green roof.  The balance is drained off into stone storage basins located under the porous pavement parking lot nearby. (For those wishing to read more about porous pavement and its benefits, read here.)

Thereafter, water flows into the bio-swales and treatment wetland where the plants “filter” the water and prevents dust and dirt from migrating into the rivers and lakes.

Natural Light

As you can see from the picture above, there are large skylights that resemble little  houses all over the roof which bring in nature light into the factory.  According to the USGBC, the skylights decreases  about 50% of artificial illumination in the factory which is turn reduces Ford’s electrical consumption.

Additionally studies have shown that natural lighting  “can affect the physiological and psychological health of factory workers.”

Solar Panels and Solar Hot Water


Ford solar panels and solar heating

Ford solar panels and solar heating

Although it is hard to see in the picture above, there is a row of solar panels on the top roof.  On the ground there are rows of solar hot water panels.

Paint Fumes and Fuel Cell

Ford Paint Fumes into Energy

Ford Paint Fumes into Energy

Ford is using paint fumes, which is then turned into electricity using fuel cells. If you want a view of this picture in a larger frame, click here.  And yes, this green girl was impressed.

But that’s not all.  Ford appealed to my gardening side as well.

Ford Honey Bees

Ford Honey Bees

Ford harvests honey from its bees, which are attracted to the variety of specimens throughout the property including the crab apple orchard.   Take a look at the solar panel picture above.  The trees are right after the circular roadway.  Our guide told us that the trees were planted to clean the soil.

The technical explanation of the trees’ use is as follows:

“Ford is experimenting with a biological process called phytoremediation to remove PAH compounds from soil near the old Rouge coke ovens. PAH compounds are polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a by-product of decades of steel manufacturing. Many years ago, large furnaces called coke ovens were used in the steel-making process.

Phytoremediation uses plants, and the microbes attracted to their roots, to break down contaminants into harmless organic compounds which are absorbed into the roots. This process helps rid the soil of PAH compounds. It also filters storm water runoff, regenerates wildlife habitat, and beautifies the landscape.”

Was I in love?  You betcha.  This building contains all the green attributes that I love.  And they threw in fuel cell technology.  They had me at “hello.”

Join the Conversation:

  • What green attribute do you love about this building?
  • If you went, which one really impressed you?

Ford paid for my travel and accommodation.  All opinion are my own.

Photo by Nature Moms

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    • 2


      Kristina, I love solar like the next person but you don’t need it to be an energy efficient house. Love what Habitat did. Do you have a link about the house. Mine is geothermal and my bills are 1/2 of what a house my size would be. But geo can be expensive. Anna

  1. 3


    This post is heart warming…to know that one of the largest manufacturers in the industry is experimenting and implementing green technologies on such a large scale gives me great hope for our planet.

    My favorite part is a live green roof! Having been in the commercial roofing business in a past life time I appreciate the complexities of such a venture.

    Subscribing to your RSS Feed sees the “natural next step” in my own process.

    James Blackstone´s last blog post ..Pool Service & Pool Maintenance – San Clemente – Orange County – Eco Clear Pools Service

    • 4


      James, absolutely. Just the mechanics of making sure the plants stays alive and don’t suffer roof burn can be challenging. Not to mention the layers of water protection membrane. Green Roofs are expensive and not necessarily the first green technology visited. You should definitively listen to my Live Roof link above. The founder was fascinating.

      What are you doing now? Anna
      Anna@Green Talk´s last blog post ..Green Building at its Finest at the Ford Rouge Factory

      • 5



        I’m not a contractor any longer. I got out of the business several years ago… From a construction guy to a “child care worker…” lol I work with at risk teenage girls from the inner cities. What a contrast in experiences.

        The company I work with embraces American Indian Traditions and we have an equine program. Being a spiritual guy I absolutely love “mother earth” and “father sky.”

        I’m actually looking to change professions once again. My current career certainly is rewarding; however I yearn to work with larger groups of people. My favorite subject, (current) is sustainability and permaculture.

        Thank you for asking!

        • 7


          Greetings James,

          I saw your earlier posts and would love to suggest some folks that might be interesting to collaborate with. I’ve been working for the green roof community for about 3 years now and there are a few green job training programs in NYC that teach green roof construction as part of their programs. The one’s I can think of off the top of my head are The Sustainable South Bronx, ReNew, and I believe there is a program through NYC Parks and Rec. Depending on where you are I might be able to set up a green roof tour once the weather warms up.

          I hope this helps!

          Good luck with your sustainable quest!

  2. 8



    What a great article! I work for, Xero Flor, the green roof company that provided the green roof for the Ford Factory and I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip. As part of my interview/induction into the company I went on a similar tour of the plant in May and I could not have described the facility and it’s integrated green infrastructure any better.

    I especially love your coverage of the phytoremediation. While the green roof is very cool and may receive a lot of attention the real star in my opinion is how all the different pieces of the green infrastructure work together to restore and protect the site.

    Excellent article!

    • 9


      Kat, I can’t imagine how many weeks it took to put that green roof on. What about the maintenance of the roof? Does Ford maintain it themselves? Or does your company do it. If so, what does that normally cost per 100 square foot? Anna

      PS I agree with you. I love what they are doing with the crab trees, but there wasn’t much on the subject on their site.

  3. 10


    Very interesting example of how you turn a useless industrial roof into an active location of the local eco-system. I thought Bill Mc Donough (Cradle to Cradle) initiated and even led this process in Ford Rouge factory. Am I right? Thanks!


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