Is Ford’s New $1.2bn Headquarters the Future of Sustainable Facilities?

Ford sustainability facilities showcase

by | Apr 13, 2016

Ford sustainability showcaseFord yesterday announced plans to transform its 60-plus-year-old Dearborn campus into a high-tech, high-efficiency sustainable facilities headquarters. The project will take 10 years to complete and cost upwards of $1.2 billion, according to some estimates, although Ford isn’t commenting on the price tag. It includes buildings that will reduce water and energy use by 50 percent, driverless cars and eBikes to transport employees, onsite gardens to grow food and composting toilets, among many, many other technology-enabled and sustainable features.

“Clearly it’s a substantial investment in our people, our communities and our infrastructure,” said Andy Hobbs, director of Ford’s environmental quality office, in an interview with Environmental Leader. Hobbs says the company will begin seeing financial and environmental benefits of the project immediately. “We are looking at the environmental impacts holistically and I think it’s going to pay dividends absolutely immediately and beyond our wildest dreams.”

The redevelopment project will co-locate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings today into two primary locations: a product campus and a world headquarters campus. Construction of the new product campus begins this month. This will include a new design center and sustainability showcase building, which will produce more energy than it consumes. Ford says this campus will have paths, trails and covered walkways as well as autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles, eBikes, high-speed internet and more green spaces.

The majority of work is expected to be complete by 2023.

Major work on the second campus around Ford World Headquarters will begin in 2021 and is expected to be complete in 2026.

Ford expects all renovated facilities on both campuses will achieve at a minimum silver certification through the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) green building program. All new construction is planned to meet LEED Gold certification standards. There are four levels of LEED certification: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum with Platinum being the highest level.

Throughout the two campuses, energy systems and efficiency improvements such as increased building insulation, new glazing systems, lighting and daylighting, solar orientation, natural airflow ventilation and heat recovery will reduce overall energy use in new buildings by about 50 percent annually.

Hobbs says Ford also expects the new campuses to reduce water consumption by 50 percent, compared with current usage. An advanced storm water management system will use green roofs, rain catchment, porous pavements and native plants to capture, clean and reduce storm water run-off. Ford will then recycle this water in its manufacturing processes.

“We don’t want to use any potable water for manufacturing,” Hobbs says.

The new campuses will also work towards zero waste to landfill through recycling and reusing, and using any remaining waste to generate energy. The current Dearborn headquarter facilities achieved zero waste earlier this year.

While all of the new buildings will incorporate recycled materials as well as water- and energy-efficiency innovations, Ford’s sustainability showcase building (artist’s rendering, pictured) on the product campus will feature the highest level of environmental sustainability. It will include geothermal heating and cooling and generate solar energy. Hobbs says that it aims to meet Living Building Challenge standards, which are more difficult to achieve than LEED in that they require buildings to be net positive in terms of energy and water use, as well as waste produced (thus, the composting toilets) among other stringent requirements.

“This project incorporates thoughtful ways to improve the environmental footprint of our facilities, while creating a vibrant workplace that inspires our employees,” said Bill Ford, Ford executive chairman, in a statement.

While a complete sustainability showcase may be out of reach for many companies, they can learn from Ford’s example and build workplaces that benefit employees, the environment and grow their business, Hobbs says.

“We are not doing anything that anybody else can’t do, you just have to have a commitment to do it,” he says. “We can present a competitive business argument for all of these actions. And if we find something that is good for our employees and good for the environment, we don’t keep it hidden.”

Last month, as an example, Ford shared an environmental reporting tool with its suppliers to help them save money and shrink their environmental impact. The program highlights Ford’s best practices for reducing energy use and carbon emissions as well as improving water management.

“We are happy to share and drive environmental performance,” Hobbs says. “But it really requires at the highest levels of a company a commitment to do the right thing.”

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