Ford’s giant green grass roof celebrates 10th anniversary

15 November 2013
By Tereza Pultarova
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The giant green roof of Ford's truck company started the sustainable building revolution

The giant green roof of Ford's truck company started the sustainable building revolution [Credit: Karen Chung]

The largest living roof in North America, and once the largest green roof in the world, is celebrating its 10th birthday, aiming to prove green roofs last longer than conventional ones.

Designed in 2003 by American architect William McDonough, the 42,178m² green roof covering Ford Motor Company’s historic River Rouge truck assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan, paved the way for a revolution in sustainable architecture.

While there were fewer than 50 green roofs across the USA when the Ford project was developed, nearly 10,000 have been built since – many of them at prestigious buildings such as the Empire State Building, FedEx facility at Chicago O'Hare International Airport or the Nintendo headquarters in Richmond.

The roof, about the same size as eight football fields, is made from drought resistant sedum and sustains a dynamic ecosystem of over 35 insect, spider, and bird species and 11 plant species. Within five days of the living roof being installed, local killdeer had nested and laid eggs in the sedum.

Ford's living roof represented a progressive ecological innovation, and ten years after completion, the benefits are even more readily apparent. All original plant species have survived, largely on rainwater, and after over a decade of operation no replacements have been necessary.

"The building serves a number of human purposes, while looking quite beautiful and being relatively simple to maintain. This has been a great roof to go back and see, because it just gets better and better," said the projects godfather William McDonough.

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