The Worlds Largest Living Roof

The Worlds Largest Living Roof

by Susan on September 18, 2012

Last week I toured the Ford Rouge manufacturing facility.  The Rouge was developed between 1917 and 1928.  Henry Fords vision was to create a manufacturing complex with complete vertical integration.  Raw materials came into the docks and finished automobiles came out.  One new car rolled off the line every 49 seconds.

During the peak of its production, the Rouge employed more than 100,000 people and had its own railroad, fire department, police force, and fully staffed hospital.  Although it was an amazing industrial achievement, one could hardy call it attractive.  The photo below, taken during its hey day, shows the shear ugliness of the Rouge complex, spitting smoke into the air and covering the land with rusted metal and concrete.

Today, the Ford Rouge plant remains the most advanced manufacturing facility in the world, but there is something more remarkable happening there.  Ford Motor Company is using the Rouge complex as a huge living laboratory of sustainable design.

At the Rouge today, you will find the worlds largest living roof and a crab apple orchard as Ford experiments with new environmentally sound manufacturing processes.  The Rouge is being rebuilt to create a workplace that will protect the environment for future generations.

I wanted to share my photographs from my visit. The living roof and orchard were so unexpected in the middle of this huge industrial complex.  I think what Ford is doing is a step in the right direction and proves that gardens can be found just about anywhere.

Pictured here is the worlds largest living roof measuring 454,000 square feet. The roof is now a 10.4 acre garden which is roughly the size of 10 regulation basketball courts.

This living roof provides advantages over a traditional roof.

1. Cleaner Storm Water

The roof cleans and filters the rain water.  There are underground storage basins, natural treatment wetlands and swales to help reduce the amount of storm water entering the Rouge river.

2.  Cooler Surroundings

The living roof insulates the building and reduces the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the facility.  It also reduces the urban heat effect created by traditional tarred surfaces.

3.  Longer Roof Life

The living roof protects the surface from UV radiation and thermal shock.  The roof at the Rouge facility is expected to last twice as long as a traditional roof.

A variety of sedum plants are used in the construction of the living roof.  This is a demonstration area showing how the roof is constructed.

The living roof is made up of 4 layers:  1) sedum plants grow in light weight material made of shale, sand, peat, compost and dolomite; 2) fleece material absorbs water; 3) drainage layer removes excess water from the roof; 4) root resistance membrane is used to protect the surface of the roof.

Images showing the variety of sedum used in the construction of the living roof.

Ford planted a hawthorn and crab apple orchard on the property.  There are bee hives placed throughout the orchard that pollinate the crab apple trees.

This is another view of the orchard from across the complex.

The crab apple trees are under planted with flowering perennials that were covered with bees and insects during my visit.  This orchard is buzzing with activity.

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