MBDC (McDonough & Braungart Design Chemistry, creators of the Cradle to Cradle certification) have worked as consultants to the Ford Motor Company since the late 1990s, both on the products themselves and on the production plants.
William McDonough, through his architecture company, signed a contract in 1999 with the automaker to re-design the River Rouge complex in Michigan, covering 16 millions of square feet of factory floor space. His proposal included a green roof for the whole plant, which was met by some reluctance at first, and dismissed as merely decorative.
Yet he pressed on and finally made his point heard, as he recalls:
“After lots of discussion and several visits to buildings with green roofs, (Ford’s) Jay Richardson’s skepticism began to give way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was developing new storm water regulations and Ford had estimated that the conventional technical controls required to comply with the new rules could cost almost $50 million. The natural storm water management system was estimated to cost only $15 million. The math was simple and compelling: the living roof offered millions of dollars in savings, with the landscape thrown in for free. Kind of gets your attention.”
Bringing nature back on a site that once was the world’s biggest industrial complex. © greenroofs.com
McDonough’s recommendations were adopted, and the key facts and figures resulting from his C2C approach are as follows:
“This is not environmental philanthropy, it is sound business, which for the first time, balances the business needs of auto manufacturing with ecological and social concerns in the redesign of a brownfield site”
Bill Ford, Ford MC Chairman
Four years after that initial contract, C2C and Ford were back under the spotlight once more as the company unveiled its “Model U” concept car, having carried out an extensive research and development campaign with the help of MBDC. Sourcing existing materials to prove the feasibility of the idea, the team came up with a vehicle powered by a hydrogen engine and including Milliken & Co. polyester upholstery fabric, a “technical nutrient” made from chemicals chosen for their human and environmental health qualities, and capable of perpetual recycling. The car top is made from a potential “biological nutrient,” a corn-based biopolymer from Cargill Dow that can be composted after use.
The Ford Model U and its compostable body parts. © Ford