Ford’s Vision for Sustainable Manufacturing Comes to Life at Rouge Complex

Ford Motor Company
Dearborn, Michigan
2,035,000 square feet
William McDonough + Partners
General Contracting

Ford Motor Company’s Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Mich., is a monumental symbol of America’s automotive manufacturing might. Initiated by Henry Ford in 1918, the Rouge was envisioned as the “perfect” industrial complex where raw materials could be processed, parts could be manufactured and vehicles could be assembled all on the same site.

Establishing a New Model for Sustainability

In 2000, Ford began a multi-billion dollar project to redevelop the entire center. It hired Walbridge to manage an expansive, three-tiered program that included: construction of a new body shop and a new final assembly building; upgrades to the infrastructure system that fed the complex with electricity, water, gas, compressed air and chilled water; and an extensive sustainability program that included significant, and in some cases untried, environmental improvements across all fronts.

Just as his great-grandfather had established a new model for auto-making, Bill Ford wanted to turn the Rouge into a 21st century model of sustainable manufacturing – balancing the business needs of automotive manufacturing with ecological and social concerns in the redesign of a brownfield site.

Walbridge utilized its decades of industrial construction experience to successfully direct a team of nationally recognized experts in architectural design, engineering, entertainment centers, landscape architecture, sustainability, LEED® certification, and storm-water management. Walbridge’s innovative project management techniques and sophisticated planning, reporting, and control systems made it possible for the group to deliver results that were faithful to the project’s grand scope and unprecedented ambitions.

Revitalizing an Icon

The sheer size of the Rouge redevelopment project was a major challenge. Revitalization of the 1,100-acre complex would involve demolition and removal of buildings, construction of more than 2 million square feet of new facilities, and replacement of a complex web of antiquated utility lines. Construction of a new body shop and final assembly building would have to proceed without impeding existing manufacturing operations in other parts of the Rouge.

Walbridge was also responsible for establishing the program, engineering management, contract management, site safety and other initiatives that involved five architectural engineering firms, a sustainable design consultant, municipal and county officials, and Ford’s representatives.

Balancing the need to revitalize an automotive manufacturing center with the aspiration of making it an environmental model for the future was also a significant challenge.

Walbridge fully utilized its construction management knowledge base and expertise to research sustainability ideas, test and evaluate them, and then make recommendations on the right components that would build the best systems for each aspect of the project.

McDonough & Partners, a nationally recognized sustainable design expert, introduced new concepts that hadn’t been tried before in automotive manufacturing. Walbridge translated those sustainability ideas into methods that would work in a manufacturing environment.

For example, the roof atop the final assembly building is a 454,000-square-foot living roof. Designed to reduce storm water runoff, the roof also provides solar shading of the surface and established a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife. It features a base of 4 inches of soil with grasses and sedum plantings. Multiple materials used in sub-layers were tested before final choices were selected. The installed roof system was just 25 percent of its original weight and cost less than anticipated.

Inside one of the buildings, a thermal storage chiller with a 1.3 million gallon tank is used to chill water in place of traditional mechanical equipment. Water inside the tank is cooled at a steady rate and is drawn from as required. It was one of several cases where a solution was created that utilized less equipment, reduced energy usage and delivered a positive result at a lower capital expenditure.

The Sustainability Program also included the planting of more than 10,000 plants, trees and shrubs, the use of photovoltaics, fuel cells and 400-foot deep thermal wells.

Sustainable Solutions for the Future

The Rouge redevelopment project delivered more than just 2 million square feet of flexible, state of the art manufacturing facilities. It tested the boundaries of sustainable ideas and set a standard for their use at a major automotive manufacturing site.

The revitalized Ford Rouge Center features lean, flexible and sustainable manufacturing processes. The Dearborn Truck Plant can handle three vehicle platforms and nine models on a single assembly line. And visitors to the Rouge Visitor Center can enjoy a multimedia experience and a tour of the truck plant. In line with the overall focus on sustainability, the Visitor Center is LEED® Gold certified.

Walbridge took a global leader’s vision, added construction perspective and discipline, and delivered reliable, sustainable systems that will yield benefits for decades to come.