Ford Land: Responsible Real Estate

Nov. 2, 2005

Ford Land puts as much care into facilities as Ford Motor does into its cars

Babies made their first trips home from the hospital. Teenagers learned the art of maneuvering a manual transmission. Boomers ventured west to explore the Grand Canyon. Seniors experienced their first and last drive-in movies. Memories like these often include a Ford Motor vehicle. Since the first Model A rolled out of Ford Motor Co.’s converted wagon factory in the early 1900s, the automaker has been in the business of manufacturing cars, trucks, and SUVs in the most responsible and safe means possible. It prides itself on efficiency - but not at the expense of quality - and with a sense of corporate stewardship, understands that success is measured in ways other than pure profitability.

Ford Motor Land Development Corp. (commonly referred to as Ford Land), the company responsible for Ford Motor’s corporate real estate portfolio as well as additional development properties, has employed the same principles in the operation of the 241 million square feet Ford Motor Co. maintains and occupies globally. To say that the real estate professionals working for Ford Land are as reliable and responsible as the safety engineers that test Ford cars is not overshooting the truth. Ford Land has made a name for itself as an innovator in the global development and management of office, manufacturing, and research and development facilities - as well as in master-planned communities.

Part corporate real estate service provider to Ford Motor, part development company, Ford Land has honed the skills and strategies required in real estate to manage workplace needs, improve the bottom line, and implement sustainable practices - all while considering the welfare of the communities where it resides.

Productivity is a Priority
Of the many services offered by Ford Land - and paramount to the success of its tenants (corporate and commercial) - are streamlined property management, space planning, and move and relocation assistance. The company prides itself on keeping occupancy high, and relies on a computer-aided facility management (CAFM) system to track information on vacant and occupied space throughout its 20.6 million-square-foot Dearborn, MI, campus.

Tenants located in facilities that are either difficult or costly to maintain are noted by Ford Land professionals, and when space in a more modern facility becomes available that will meet a tenant’s technology needs, a move results. “Our organization truly is a service organization for not only the parent company, but also outside tenants on the commercial side,” says Ron Koshewitz, director of strategic planning at Ford Land. “So, we look for opportunities to give them a better environment so they can perform to their maximum potential.”

When CAFM is coupled with the team’s asset inventory management (AIM) system, Ford Land can not only manage moves efficiently, but it can ensure that existing furniture systems are utilized. Because the team knows exactly what pieces are in its inventory, money is not wasted purchasing unnecessary furniture systems. While move management might not seem like a serious threat to productivity, an organization that moves between 14,000 and 15,000 people annually makes streamlining the process a priority. “We need to have in place a way to control and be successful in implementing the movement of people - because if not, they obviously aren’t working that day,” says Koshewitz. Coordination with the IT team ensures that people are back online as soon as possible.

Sustainability that Makes Business Sense
Aside from its emphasis on creating efficient and effective workplaces, Ford Land aims to reduce facilities’ impact on the environment as much as possible. “Environmental responsibility has long been a key value of Ford Motor Co.,” says Sean McCourt, chairman, Ford Land. When Bill Ford, chairman and chief executive officer, Ford Motor Co., empowered employees with a call to action to create more sustainable vehicles and facilities in 1999, Ford Land responded. The team pinpointed ways its members could improve the quality of the air, water, and soil while providing an aesthetically pleasing environment that tenants would be proud of and wildlife could call home.

When it was proposed that the Dearborn, MI, 1917-built Rouge Complex be transformed from an icon of early industrialism into a modern, 21st-century example of sustainable manufacturing, the Ford Land team immediately saw the challenge as an opportunity. Close evaluation revealed areas where renovation could be concentrated - specifically stormwater management and landscaping. “Over time, we had literally paved from building to building, so all you saw in an aerial photograph was black roofs and black asphalt,” says Roger Gaudette, director of engineering and construction, Ford Land. Gaudette saw the renovation as an opportunity to reduce the number of impervious surfaces and replace them with green spaces planted with native perennial plants and trees. The more than 1,500 trees and thousands of other plantings provided an attractive habitat for songbirds and other wildlife as well.

The Rouge Complex also provided the ideal opportunity to apply stormwater management strategies. The world’s largest living roof - a 10.4-acre roof planted with drought-resistant groundcover called sedum - atop the complex’s Dearborn Truck Plant is capable of absorbing 4 million gallons of rainwater annually. “The natural process of [rainwater] running through vegetation slows down the water and helps to drop out the impurities, creating a better water source going into lakes and rivers,” explains Gaudette. The garden roof was only one part of the cost-effective stormwater system Ford Land developed to mimic nature. A network of natural wetlands, underground cisterns, porous pavement installations, and retention ponds called “swales” address more than 300 million gallons of rainwater per year before it flows into the Rouge River. Used for flushing toilets and irrigation at the Visitor Center, a 12,500-gallon cistern collects and recycles rainwater, reducing the amount of municipally supplied water needed by the facility.

While industrial sites have traditionally been hard on the soil, Ford Land is hoping to change all that. With help from East Lansing, MI-based Michigan State University and its Assistant Professor of Phytoremediation Clayton Rugh, Ford Land is testing how plants can stabilize, reduce, and detoxify impacted soil. “We have a 3-year program going on here where we’re [researching] a way to naturally clean up the soil with various types of plants vs. digging it up and just relocating the problem from one location to another,” explains Gaudette.

The company currently has achieved certification for three facilities projects by participating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System®.

Strategies for Bottom-Line Success
Ford Land has carefully balanced environmental and workplace concerns without losing sight of the bottom line. To further these goals while keeping energy consumption in check, the team has reduced operating costs through a number of energy management strategies that involve reduction, education, and generation.

“Back in 2000, we made a decision as a company to reduce our energy consumption by 18 percent in 5 years,” says George Andraos, director of energy at Ford Land. “To-date, we are very happy to report that we are on target to meet our objective by the end of this year.” With 15 to 20 years of energy-usage data at hand, the company has been able to calculate spikes and reductions and develop a model to compensate for changes in vehicle production and weather conditions. Additionally, performance contracting has been employed to reduce the energy required by lighting and HVAC systems.

The team of six Ford Land professionals devoted to energy efficiency in North American facilities has made it a standard practice to visit manufacturing plants at least twice per year. “Some of the local plants we spend more time with, to be face to face and do what we call an ‘energy waste walk,’ where we walk the facility with the energy personnel. I will give them some suggestions and, at the end of the visit, we typically have what we refer to as an ‘exit interview’ with the management of the plant,” says Andraos. Highlighting areas for improvement and sharing best practices ensures that, facility-by-facility, the company is scrutinizing energy usage and striving for efficiency.

Ford Land is raising awareness about energy consumption among both corporate and commercial tenants through innovative educational programs. Two years ago, the company launched a “SAVEnergy” campaign for all Southeast Michigan facilities to increase knowledge and ignite the competitive spirit. Facilities competed against each other to reduce energy by 5 percent over last year. “The ‘SAVEnergy’ contest is targeted to all employees in our office and R&D facilities. It’s a great way of helping to educate employees and empower them to help,” says Andraos. “It’s everyone’s responsibility.” Through “Lunch and Learn” programs, occupants are being taught ways to curb wasteful energy habits both at work and at home. “We try to make it fun and, at the same time, have an impact on the environment from an economic standpoint,” McCourt adds.

Reducing reliance on municipally supplied utilities and electricity through power generation is another way Ford Land is approaching energy management. When the energy professionals in Andraos’ group explored which areas of manufacturing were consuming the most energy, they realized that the spray booths in the paint shop were at the top of the list. “We use energy in the spray booth more than anywhere else in the plant,” comments Andraos. In order to reduce emissions, paint solvents were previously being burned with natural gas. Now, instead of using energy to burn the volatile organic compounds, a “Fumes-to-Fuel” system generates electricity from paint fumes. Ford partnered with Detroit-based DTE Energy to successfully convert paint fumes into hydrogen fuel for fuel cells at the Rouge Complex more than a year ago. The system is currently generating approximately 100,000 watts of electricity while saving the company millions of dollars.

Other alternative energy sources used by Ford Land, a registered Energy Star® partner, include wind-power generators (installed in Dagenham, England), photovoltaic cells (at the Rouge Visitor Center), and fuel cells (used at the Premier Automotive Group facility in Irvine, CA, for 3 years). Carefully considering how energy is used has enabled the Ford Land team to keep a watchful eye on the bottom line while benefiting the environment and occupants as well.

Considering the Community
Everyone wants good neighbors. For those individuals lucky enough to be located in a community where Ford Motor Co. is present, there is no question about whether the company cares - it’s obvious from Ford’s actions. The most recent development project undertaken by Ford Land - Fairlane Green in Allen Park, MI - will convert the site of a previous clay mine and landfill into a 1 million-square-foot green retail and recreational center. The development will result in the creation of approximately 2,000 new jobs and provide multiple economic benefits to Allen Park.

Not only is the company turning this blighted brownfield site into a shopping and dining destination, it is also planning to provide a 43-acre park and 3.5 miles of trails for recreational activities. Using the lessons learned from other sustainable development projects, Fairlane Green will incorporate wetlands and use captured stormwater for irrigation. To lessen the impact of light pollution to surrounding areas, shielded fixtures will be used in the parking lot. “We are trying to balance cost, environmental benefits, and social benefits in all the projects that we do,” says Gaudette.

Additionally, Ford Land has begun to beautify its undeveloped property. “Instead of mowing some of our undeveloped sites, last year, we planted sunflowers on 100 acres,” says McCourt.

This approach to development doesn’t end when the company decides to move out of a community, either. “If we dispose of a piece of property, we don’t just list it with a real estate broker and sell the property. We may do a lot of the initial development - which could be the master planning or could be the zoning,” McCourt explains. “And, if we leave a community for competitive reasons, we don’t want to leave a vacuum. We find it’s a social responsibility to ensure the continued viability of that piece of property so that it contributes to that community, both from a social and economic standpoint.”

The success of this 30-year-old company is the result of its people and the visionary leaders driving the organization. Its team of professionals demonstrates enthusiasm, a zest for innovation, and an overall desire for quality and safety that makes financial, social, and environmental decision-making seem more like a culture than a mandate. Ford Land strives to always consider the impact its facilities will have on occupants and the environment. This kind of responsible management requires vigilance and patience - as well as lots of data, ideas, and dedication. “The strength of Ford Land is not only its legacy,” says McCourt, “but its people.”

Jana J. Madsen ([email protected]) is managing editor at Buildings magazine.

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