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The bio-swale project, completed in 2015,


The international architecture firm, SmithGroup, has been retained for the project. Both of the new buildings are designed to demonstrate sustainability best practices. The Administration Building was designed as a Net-Zero or even Net-Positive facility, and the Visitor Center was designed to LEED Gold standards.

“As part of Ford House’s commitment to sustainability, both buildings will utilize photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy and geothermal technology to offset heating and cooling for the buildings,” said Kevin Shultis, vice president for SmithGroup.  “The buildings will also utilize high efficiency ‘smart windows’ with a system designed to track weather conditions and alert us when windows should be opened or closed to obtain the highest energy efficiency.”

Working with the Landscape

Building on the spirit of sustainable design practices, the project plans have been developed with consideration to migratory birds, habitat, and safety.  Windows in the buildings will be made with glass crafted to prevent bird casualties often caused by heavily windowed structures. In addition, the project offers Ford House the opportunity to express the work of landscape architect, Jens Jensen, taking inspiration from his work in the planting areas.

Protecting the Lake and Watershed

The new parking lot will be designed to preserve nearby wetland areas.  Rows will be separated by bioswales planted with environmentally-beneficial vegetation to help filter and improve the quality of stormwater runoff.  The primary objective is to ensure that water runoff from the estate is cleaned before entering Lake St. Clair.


To learn more about the project watch the video below:

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