- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

With decades-old factories being abandoned across the country, learning that an 85-year-old manufacturing facility is becoming innovative is refreshing.
Ford is also memorializing six fallen employees on this sprawling industrial site. Set in an out-of-the-way section of lawn on the 1,100-acre Ford Rouge Center, six concrete columns stand solemnly, in remembrance of the employees who lost their lives in a raging fire.
Today, the sound of construction fills the air. Earthmovers and cranes, reaching skyward, move earth and steel as Ford builds the new facility that will build the next-generation F-150 pickup.
The Rouge plant is the site of Henry Ford's history-making mass-production plan. It was here that Henry Ford began the production of his world-famous Model A. It is also the site of the famous "Battle of the Overpass," a 1937 confrontation between auto workers and security personnel during a labor dispute.
The Rouge is also the production facility for the Mustang, and has had this distinction since the first pony car was produced in 1964.
Not only will the Dearborn facility add another page in Ford's history with the F-150, it is destined to become the benchmark of partnership between environment and industry.
Ford planners decided early on that not only should this new facility encompass the most modern of manufacturing methods, it would also incorporate the latest in environmental mediation methods. All on an existing industrial site, one that will not gobble up greenbelt but increases it.
The idea of restoring flora and fauna around a manufacturing facility isn't new, and by many standards isn't earth-shattering. But, by implementing these initiatives on an existing 85-year-old industrial site, Ford's plan for the Rouge Center is innovative. While it may seem small in size, Ford hopes that this will be the first building block for an initiative that will become much larger.
As the plans for the new building began to take form, Ford realized that there would be acres of roof area that in turn would produce millions of gallons of rainwater runoff. Ford had to find a way to minimize the effect of this water. Starting with 10 acres of roof surface, Ford has planted a "lawn" of low-growing sedum, which is able to absorb 4 million gallons of rainwater each year. This will reduce water runoff tremendously.
The living roof is expected to last twice as long as a conventional roof, thereby saving millions of dollars in replacement costs. The multilayered living roof will insulate the building, providing an estimated 5 percent reduction of energy use, in summer and winter.
The use of sedum makes a green lawn that is nearly maintenance-free. Once mature, the sedum will provide a meadow of flowers in many colors that will attract insects and birds.
The living roof is just the beginning. Instead of following the standard landscaping method of ripping out native plants and planting nonnative plants, Ford is planting native plants that actually clean the environment.
Through the biological process of phytoremediation the plants remove and break down byproducts of years of steel manufacturing. These plants actually "eat" contaminates, thereby cleaning tainted soil.
Making up one of the nation's largest porous parking lots, 16 acres of the Rouge Center will allow rain and snow to seep into underground rock beds, where it will be filtered by the soil and directed to wetlands.
This will not only reduce runoff, but also filter the water before it flows into the wetlands to make new homes for wildlife.
Impressed with the project, the Wildlife Habitat Council has designated 600 acres of the Rouge Center as a wildlife habitat.
According to Wildlife Habitat Council Executive Vice President Bob Johnson, "Ford is a leader in trying these technologies. … using plants and vegetation to restore contaminated urban land for reuse." With the use of these techniques the area surrounding the Rouge Center is becoming a habitat for songbirds, animals and pollinating insects that not only return something to the land and air, but gives the employees a whole different outlook on their working environment.
We see many corporations making attempts to lessen the effect of their facilities.
With the programs Ford has put into place at this facility, it is proving that even when the future looks the darkest, it can turn to a bright and colorful outlook with just a little insight and innovation.
It is good to see corporations, employees and communities working together to improve the environment in which they live, while retaining the history of the site.

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