The Kresge Foundation occupies land that was used for industrial agriculture until the 1970s. Years of single-crop cultivation stripped the site of its native vegetation and biodiversity.
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By the mid-1990s, the foundation had outgrown its office space and decided to redevelop its property to accommodate its growth. Completed in June 2005, the new green headquarters is now a model of sustainable design.
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The project restores the native prairieland landscape that once spanned this region of southern Michigan. By clustering the buildings close together, the designer maximizes the space dedicated to new wildlife habitat and helps restore biodiversity. Green roofs, seen on the left, create opportunities to extend the native grassland into the built environment.
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Ecological stormwater management is a hallmark of the new design. Excess water from the landscape and green roofs naturally drains into a constructed wetland pond, illustrated here. Pond water is pumped into a 15,000 gallon storage tank, and then reused for irrigation. The water harvesting system supplies all the water needed to sustain the landscape.
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The parking lot is built with porous pavers that allow water to penetrate and absorb into the ground. Surplus stormwater drains into vegetated swales, retaining and slowly filtering the water. During rare heavy storms, water from the swales overflows into the city storm drain.
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The embedded office buildings create a need for numerous retaining walls throughout the site. Instead of using new materials, concrete rubble salvaged from the old parking lot and office building serve as an equal replacement. This conserves resources and spares landfills from extra construction waste.
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The landscape elements are designed to create a restorative workplace environment for foundation employees. Offices feature floor-to-ceiling windows that look out into the natural and soothing landscape, enhancing worker health and productivity.
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Kresge’s first prairie burn was conducted in the spring of 2009. Burning is a recommended annual maintenance regime for prairie landscapes.
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