Today at Ford House
Ford House has made a strong commitment to sustainability and steps toward
improving the estate’s environmental responsibility.
Looking toward the future of the estate, Ford House kicked off a long-term restoration and rehabilitation plan
for the estate in 2012, replacing aging infrastructure, improving the visitor experience and addressing
environmental concerns like stormwater runoff. Part of this continuing effort, Ford House has constructed two
brand-new facilities, a Visitor Center and an Administration Building – the largest new construction on the site
since the home was built in 1929.
The state-of-the art 40,000-square-foot Visitor Center is a two-story building that transforms the overall
experience for visitors. The building features space for a permanent exhibition on the Ford Family Story, as
well as dedicated spaces for traveling and changing exhibits. Indoor and outdoor multipurpose rooms expand
education opportunities. Social spaces include an expanded restaurant and retail shop, as well as second floor
event space overlooking Ford Cove.
The new 17,000-square-foot Administration Building removes Ford House operations from the main house and
other historic buildings, allowing the organization to better preserve the historic core. It will also enable the
staff wing of the main residence to eventually be restored and incorporated into the tour and educational
• Completed in 2015, Ford House installed a stormwater management system which incorporated a
natural water-cleansing bioswale near a small peninsula on the estate known as Bird Island.
o The bioswale naturally cleans runoff water before it reenters Lake St. Clair.
o The bioswale created in 2015 has been temporarily removed and will be relocated due to
some adjustments in construction plans for the new buildings. It will be reconstructed upon
completion of the buildings in 2020.
• A small portion of the neck of the peninsula was removed and a bridge was constructed in its place to
allow water to circulate between the cove and the lake. This simple initiative reduces the risks that
develop with stagnant water, including algae blooms.
• An extensive study of the landscape was undertaken, including inventorying the trees and assessing
their health and alignment to the naturalist principles landscape architect Jens Jensen used to design
• One thousand sprinkler heads were added on the grounds along with a sensor-based system to
maximize water efficiency and deliver only the amount water needed to maintain the landscape.
• In 2019, Ford House added patterned decals on the sliding glass doors of the estate’s Recreation
Building to prevent birds from striking the glass.
Commitment to Sustainability
• The Administration Building is set to be energy Net-Zero to Net-Positive, creating as much or more
energy than it consumes. Any excess energy it creates will contribute energy to the Visitor Center,
which was designed to LEED Gold standards.
• The buildings were equipped with solar panels utilizing photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.
• Occupancy sensors and photocells track movement in the buildings, allowing lights and ventilation
systems to automatically modulate to save energy.
• A window shade system in the Administration Building is automatic via radiometers on the roof which
will track sun movement.
• 300-foot wells were constructed to provide geothermal support to offset heating and cooling for the
buildings and reduce their carbon footprint.
• The buildings were constructed with 100-year materials, including locally sourced limestone and slate
roof. The interiors will have sustainably forested wood veneer flooring.
• The project plans were developed with consideration to migratory birds, habitat and safety. Windows
in the buildings are made with glass crafted to prevent bird casualties often caused by heavily
• The parking system was designed to preserve the natural benefits of the nearby wetland areas.
• A series of mini bioswales and environmentally beneficial vegetation were strategically positioned
within the parking lot system to pre-treat runoff water and to complement the bioswale near Bird
• Wood from fallen and removed trees on the estate has been milled and was used for construction of
tables in the restaurant and shop.
More Environmental Efforts
• Ford House maintains Bird Island as a wild refuge, where native species of plants provide natural
habitats for wildlife as well as a bird sanctuary, as the estate is positioned on a migratory bird path.
• The estate supports pollinator populations by caring for beehives on the grounds.
• Ford House plants pollinator-friendly plants in its gardens and supports the growth and spread of
• The grounds are treated only with insecticides which are proven harmless to bees.
• Ford House hosts programs, workshops and family events which help educate the community about
native plants, invasive species, the importance of pollinators, and how to properly interact with wild
• Staff attend professional development opportunities based around environmental best practices and