Green Campus Revitalization

Sustainability plans for Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn, MI campus include net zero goals for energy, water, and waste.

By Drew Robb
From the October 2019 Issue

Ford Motor Company’s campus in Dearborn, MI stands as an enduring symbol of the American automotive industry. Its Ford Research and Engineering Campus (REC) was originally dedicated by President Eisenhower in 1953. That was followed by iconic Ford World Headquarters building, dedicated in 1956. But just like the car industry in the state, the buildings and the campus needed an update to truly represent 21st century manufacturing.

Ford green campus
Ford’s green campus in Dearborn, MI will feature a Sustainable Showcase building (center), designed be a net zero waste, net zero energy, net zero water facility. (Photo: courtesy of Ford)

Accordingly, a massive renovation and campus rejuvenation program is underway. While office complexes are a major part of the project, central to the vision are power generation, renewable energy, and sustainability. The campus will incorporate solar power arrays, geothermal heating and cooling, and water saving technologies such as rainwater capture. The goal is to achieve a net zero waste, net zero energy, net zero water facility, and to attain certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) process.

In addition, construction of a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant will boost efficiency and lower emissions. It will utilize two Solar Titan 130 gas turbines, a steam turbine, as well as heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) from Rentech Boiler Systems.

Throughout the campus, overall energy use will be reduced by about 50% annually. All renovated facilities are expected to earn at the very least Silver LEED Certification.

“Ford is adding an abundance of clean, efficient distributed generation that is capable of serving the new campus and the neighboring community,” says Michael Larson, director business development, DTE Energy Services, a Detroit-based diversified energy company working on the project.

Ford Campus Transformation

With this project, Ford is making a statement that the company is in Michigan for the long haul. The REC was originally conceived as a cutting-edge hub for automotive research and development (R&D) as well as car design. It currently houses 12,000 employees.

Back in 2006, Ford earned LEED silver certification for its Research and Engineering Campus based on points earned for sustainability, water efficiency, a 25% drop in energy costs HVAC/ventilation, a 75% reduction of construction waste sent to landfill and indoor environmental quality.

But now an even more ambitious project is underway. The Research and Engineering Campus is being transformed into a contemporary work environment to accommodate 24,000 employees in 4.5 million square feet of upgraded and connected workspace. A central green area will link buildings with walking trails, bike paths, and covered walkways. The campus also will serve as a pilot location for Ford Smart Mobility solutions, including autonomous vehicles, on-demand shuttles, and eBikes to transport employees. While the core auto business will continue to invest in designing, manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing cars, SUVs, trucks and electrified vehicles, Ford is pursuing opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility.

Additionally, Ford is adding a Sustainability Showcase building on the campus. The goal is for it to produce more energy than it consumes to meet Living Building Challenge standards, the highest level of sustainability possible today. The net zero waste, net zero energy, net zero water facility will include geothermal heating and cooling and generate renewable energy from the sun.

Meanwhile, the Ford World Headquarters building is scheduled for full-scale renovation in 2021. Care will be taken to retain its distinctive image. The new HQ will incorporate more than 1.3 million square feet of work space, a Ford Credit facility, better connectivity, walkways, covered parking decks, outdoor recreation facilities, and green spaces.

Known collectively as the Ford Dearborn Campus Transformation (DCT) project, the 10-year initiative is already underway. It encompasses the co-location of about 30,000 employees from 70 buildings into the Research and Engineering Campus and the World Headquarters. Construction and renovation are occurring in two phases. Phase One is scheduled for completion by 2023, and Phase Two by 2026.

With the campus targeting reduction in annual energy consumption by up to 50%, the DCT project will incorporate an on-site 4 MW solar array, as well as geothermal steam, and the construction of a Central Energy Plant (CEP) to replace aging on-site boilers.

This $300 million CEP complex will be constructed and operated by P&I Group in conjunction with DTE. The various elements of the CEP are a 34 MW and 370 k-lb/hr steam CHP plant, a 16,000-ton chiller system, a 156 MMBtu/hr hot water supply system, a 6,400 ton geothermal system, 40,000 ton-hr of chilled water storage, and an energy distribution system. It consists of two Solar Titan 130 gas turbines, a 5 MW condensing steam turbine, and Rentech heat recovery steam generators to capture waste heat and convert it to steam. As a result, it will use 10 times less natural gas than a traditional boiler plant. Steam and hot water from the CHP plant will primarily be used for heating as well as personnel and building comfort. A very small portion of the steam and hot water will be used for some processes within Ford.

“This new CHP facility increases the efficiency of the grid, greatly lowers emissions, and improves the cost equation for both Ford and DTE Energy Services,” says Larson.

Ford gains attractive long-term contracts for steam and power from DTE Electric, which picks up the tab for CHP construction. The car manufacturer also gains an on-site generation asset that could be dispatched directly for local consumption if a more distant part of the grid is down. By shutting down aging “dirty” boilers, and adding onsite CHP, Ford forwards its energy efficiency and sustainability goals.

The utility also wins. It can offset its own outlay for project capital, operation, and maintenance, and natural gas supply by adding a new generating source to sell clean power to external customers. As long as Ford gets the steam it requires and receives power from the DTE grid, the utility is free to dispatch the power from the CEP to wherever it desires. Infrastructure improvements made in Dearborn will also enhance grid reliability and availability in the region.

The latest chiller and Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology is another way Ford intends to meet its energy efficiency targets. This will bring about a 35% reduction in energy use versus traditional chillers. It will also reduce peak electric system requirements. Along with the geothermal systems, TES and the chillers are part of the CEP but not the CHP plant. This 16,000-ton chiller system will harness mechanical and heat pump chillers. It will operate in tandem with a 40,000-ton-hr TES, and a 6,400-ton geothermal system.

Construction of the CEP began in the latter part of 2018 and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2019. Thereafter, various aspects of the campus renovation project are scheduled for between 2020 and 2026 when the work is expected to be fully complete.

Ford green campusRobb is a freelance writer from the Tampa Bay, FL area focusing on engineering, business, and technology. Originally from Scotland, he has a degree in Geology/Geography from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

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