North America’s Biggest Living Roof is Alive and Well 10 Years Later

Ford's Living Roof in Detroit

November, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the living roof situated atop Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn, MI. It was the biggest green roof in the world at the time is was built planted back in 2003. 10 years later it’s still the largest living roof in North America.

The roof is about 10.4 acres in size, or the size of nearly 8 football fields. It’s composed of 11 varieties of a drought tolerant, low maintenance plant called sedum – about 10,000 plants and counting. No mowing is necessary…whew! Fertilizing is done once a year.

Close up of sedum plant on the living roof at Ford's Detroit plant
Close-up of sedum plants atop Ford's living roof in Detroit

At the time is was completed, the Ford Truck Plant roof was one of only about 50 living roofs in the United States. It definitely helped spark growth and interest in commercial green roof design – today there are more than 10,000 living roofs in the U.S.

The roof was designed by William McDonough + Partners as part of a 600-acre masterplan at the facility.

original masterplan for Ford River Rouge plant
Original masterplan from William McDonough + Partners

Living roofs can last up to 75 years with very little maintenance compared to roofing alternatives. The $15 million price tag for the roof is comparatively low for a facility of this size. When you factor in the energy savings and longevity of the living roof, I’d say it’s a bargain.

The roof reduces Ford’s heating and cooling needs by about 5% and lowers the amount of heat entering the many buildings on campus during the humid summer months by 70%.

FIND: Roofing contractors in Dearborn, MI

This innovative living roof also controls storm water runoff far more efficiently than a conventional roof and traps harmful pollutants.

Dozens of insects and birds call the roof home, which is refreshing to know since we all-to-often obliterate the natural habitats of these species without a second thought.

Photos of the Ford River Rouge Living Roof in Detroit

Aerial View and Facts about the Living Roof at the Ford River Rouge Plant