Minneapolis Auto Plant Conversion Earns LEED Gold

The 1910s were probably not the best decade in which to find sustainable building design. Nor is a hulking auto plant a great example of a small carbon footprint. After more than a century and a $40 million retrofit, however, a long-shuttered Model T factory built in Minneapolis in 1912 has earned one of the highest LEED ratings for Existing Buildings (EB).

The Ford Center, located in the North Loop section of Minneapolis, across the street from the also LEED-certified Target Field baseball stadium, recently completed a conversion from a warehouse to 265,000 square feet of Class A office space, earning a LEED-EB Gold certification.

Image via Preserve Minneapolis

Image via Preserve Minneapolis

The U.S. Green Building Council gave high marks for the project’s restoration of wide windows that bring natural daylight into the interior, the use of sustainable remodeling materials and the installation of high-efficiency mechanical systems, such as an under-floor air-delivery system. The Ford Center earned a LEED nod for being situated near rapid mass transit lines that also serve the stadium during Minnesota Twins baseball games.

The Ford Center, seen with the adjacent rail system and nearby Target Field baseball stadium. Image via Mulad/Flickr.

The Ford Center, seen with the adjacent rail system and nearby Target Field baseball stadium. Image via Mulad/Flickr.

The project also won a 2012 Heritage Preservation Award from Preserve Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission and the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, for rehabilitation of a landmark building that serves as a redevelopment anchor for a former industrial neighborhood.

The 10-story brick building has a rich history as one of the few car manufacturing facilities that was built with a vertical layout. Car parts were brought in and transported via elevator to the top floor, where workers would begin assembling components and sending the units down through each successive level until the completed Model T’s reached the ground-floor showroom. It would be a stretch to call this assembly process green, but the so-called “gravity-feed” system used far less energy than the huge horizontal plants that soon made the building obsolete.

According to the Minneapolis StarTribune, the Ford Center is 99.5 percent leased, with major tenants such as HGA Architects and Engineers, Olson Advertising and Atomic Playpen as anchor tenants.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.