Ford Plans $2 Billion Greening of Old Rouge Complex

Ford Motor Co. will spend $2 billion in environmental improvements to transform its 83-year old Rouge manufacturing complex.

Ford Motor Co. will spend $2 billion to transform its 83-year old Rouge manufacturing complex, a sprawling concrete-covered icon of the industrial age, into a new symbol of environmental responsibily, the automaker said.

At the center of the revitalized Rouge will be a new assembly plant, topped with nearly half a million square feet of foliage and located next to an open meadow of berry bushes to attract migratory songbirds.

"This is not tokenism," said James Padilla, Ford group vice president of global manufacturing. "This is about merging the values of the economic system, which pretty much we''ve been dedicated to in our hundred years of existance, and bringing in the environmental side of that."

The Rouge was once the largest private manufacturing complex in the world, employing more than 100,000 people at its peak in the 1930s.

In the 1990s, Ford began examining the future of the ageing complex, now 500 acres.

Padilla said Ford could have closed Rouge and built a new vehicle assembly plant on a "greenfield" site for less money, but the company decided against abandoning its home base and its history.

Ford plans to spend $1 billion on the environmental initiatives and the new 750,000-square-foot assembly plant, where the automaker plans to build up to nine vehicle models on three different platforms.

To manage stormwater and keep pollutants from washing into the Rouge River, Ford''s architect, William McDonough, came up with the idea of the assembly plant roof covered with a groundcover plant rooted in a naturally-absorbant material able to soak up one hour worth of rainwater.

The green roof will also save energy by regulating the factory''s temperature.

Other initiative include swales, or shallow ditches, with native plants to regulate water flow, and the nearly 1 million square foot meadow, which will help decontaminate the soil.

Ford is also spending $400 million to upgrade its Engine and Fuel Tank Plant at the Rouge.

Padilla said the environmental initiatives make sense both from an economic and environmental standpoint.

Traditional methods to meet future governmental regulations would cost $50 million, but these methods cost a third of that.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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