Ford Motor Company Building – Merit Award

Our story of this project spans the course of nearly a decade. It began with a derelict historic auto factory and the fight to keep its bones from the wrecking ball and ended with the celebration of a building’s new life as a uniquely creative office space to work and thrive.

Located in the Arts District neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles, the Ford Motor Company Factory building was initially built as a five-story office tower and Model T showroom (1913) and a two-story, nearly 300 ft long factory Assembly Building (1923). In 2014 our first objective was to preserve the historic architectural fabric and restore the building to a usable state. It included modernizing the building with critical infrastructure updates and making it as energy-efficient as possible. Improvements to the base building core and shell resulted in LEED Gold certification through the USGBC.


The design puts a massive building back in service and is a wonderful reuse and restoration of a valuable existing building.

Noteworthy performance features include:

1. Successfully salvage historic structural elements and integrated in the new design

2. Green roof integration

3. LEED Gold Certified

//framework for design excellence measures
Measure 1: Design for Integration
The largest sustainable factor in this project came from careful site selection. Firstly, the entirety of the nearly 200,000 sq ft historic structure on the site was preserved. By revitalizing the existing building rather than demolishing and building new, the enormous embodied energy of the original building was retained. Secondly, by choosing a site in an urban environment access by walking, biking, or public transit is highly convenient. The project site offers numerous pedestrian entrances, ample bike parking, and solar supplied EV charging stations amongst its required parking, all to encourage alternate transportation methods.
Natural daylighting was a critical feature in the design of the indoor environment. The historic structure included extensive skylights which were restored and provide ample enough light that during daylight hours large areas of the building require no artificial lighting to be used. To maximize the areas of the large floor plates that benefit from this natural lighting, two separate double height volumes were created, which allows the daylight to flow from the roof down to multiple floor levels.
Measure 2: Design for Equitable Communities
This building as a headquarters for Warner Music Group houses +900 employees. Creating a healthy and enjoyable work environment for each one of them was important to the design. The project encourages alternate transportation methods for its employees in a number of ways. Its urban location means it is near to public transit stops. The project site offers numerous pedestrian entrances, ample bike parking, and solar supplied EV charging stations. Additionally, crafting an environment that would give employees the greatest access to nature possible in an urban setting was achieved by the addition of an onsite park.
Measure 3: Design for Ecosystems
The downside to a project in a dense urban environment is that it by nature is very disconnected from the natural ecosystem. This project is constructed on a previously developed site and does not take up any new natural land. For the last 100 years the site has been entirely covered by building or paved surfaces, the renovation of the project added an outdoor green space with green-screens on the adjacent garage as well as a green roof system. Native, drought-tolerant plants make up 90% of the linear park on the ground level and 40% in the roof system. These added spaces create areas of nature to support wildlife in an urban environment.
Measure 4: Design for Water
Water is a precious resource in Los Angeles and the building was designed to go beyond some of the area’s already stringent codes. In the landscape design, native or drought tolerant plants were used. Extensive water collection systems are in place to collect and reuse any site water. Potable water is used in landscaping only after rainwater storage is depleted.
Measure 5: Design for Economy
Reuse of the existing historic structure allowed for a significant reduction in the material costs of the building. Only minimal new materials were need. Additionally the interior spaces were designed to be multi-functional, workspaces are open and consisted of flexible furniture; meeting spaces are adaptable to be broken into smaller spaces or left open for larger groups; assembly spaces are suitable for performances, team meetings, and community gatherings. Specialized and single use spaces were created only when absolutely necessary (i.e. music recording studios which need particular sound deadening and equipment).
Measure 6: Design for Energy
A thorough energy model was created during the design process and a design dialogue was formed to pinpoint which design decisions would have the greatest impact. A key design change that was made was to upgrade the glazing on the historic windows to a laminated glass in lieu of single-pane plate glass. For all non-historic windows high-efficiency insulated glazing units were utilized. An additional energy saving feature that was implemented was the on boarding of a building manager who will monitor and maintain best energy practices throughout the lifespan of the project.
Measure 7: Design for Well-Being
User satisfaction and wellbeing were critical design factors in this project. High-efficiency mechanical systems were used to create a quality indoor environment. Architecturally, natural daylight was extremely important. All the existing exterior windows were preserved but their glazing upgraded and user-operated shades were provided, allowing a continual connection to the exterior and for daylighting to be utilized when appropriate without any adverse heat gain. The historic skylights were also restored, providing wonderful ambient light throughout the upper levels. Natural light and the reduction of artificial light is critical to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the building occupants.
Measure 8: Design for Resources
The reuse of the existing structure greatly reduced the need for new materials. The building is already over 100 years old and it is anticipated that the structural upgrades made to the core and shell extended the building’s life another 100 years. Life cycle analysis was also conducted on the building infrastructure which is estimated at 40-50 years.
The minimal material needed for the structural upgrade (e.g. the steel moment frames) were sourced from local suppliers. On the interior of the building, applied finishes were foregone in many areas, leaving the structure exposed and saving the need for duplicate surfaces.
Measure 9: Design for Change
We saved a tremendous amount of embodied energy by preserving this massive structure, which underwent a complete seismic retrofit. The core and shell of the building were designed for longevity while the interior environment was designed to be minimally invasive to optimize future flexibility. The majority of the program space is not specific to the current building users and consists of open work and gathering spaces. These areas are able to be adapted to different tenants or used as the base for an entirely different function. Though the current use is office, in the future a whole host of functions are possible from industrial (like the original historic building) to retail or food service. The infrastructure of the building is adequately sized to accommodate most possible uses.
Measure 10: Design for Discovery
The team on this project was highly talented and collaborative and the partnerships formed during design and construction continue to this day, far beyond the initial occupation of the building. Continuing building evaluation is conducted by a third party management group and improvements based on user feedback and performance criteria are regularly addressed by the design team.
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