Book Depository Renovation

The project: The renovated and revitalized Book Depository in Detroit is one of the first buildings to open in Ford Motor Company’s multi-year adaptive reuse and repositioning of the iconic Michigan Central Station and surrounding landmark buildings. The 275,000-sf historic renovation of the abandoned book warehouse building was converted into a new urbanized office building for new advanced technology systems that meet the needs of businesses and residents in the area.

The goal: Create a new mobility and innovation district to meet the demands of today’s top innovators with an adaptive and flexible workplace, ample access to daylight, open and internal connectivity, and destinations for exchange.

Project highlights: IMEG worked with the architect and owner to redesign the historic building to become the industrial center of the district and serve as a maker space, offering co-working areas, hands-on labs, and innovation studios. The design called for built-in flexibility and large floor plans that spur connection as tenants create, learn, and collaborate. The newly designed building includes a main lobby, center atrium and event center, cafe, tenant spaces, main campus security, wellness center, main core spaces for restrooms, electrical and IT functions, and mechanical and electrical spaces. The building also has 2,000 square feet of exhibition space, an 11,000-square-foot robotics and prototyping facility, and two open studio spaces.

Innovative designs: In the case of a fire, a horizontal air curtain between the first and second floors seals off the first floor from the floors above and provides the necessary protection. This allowed the building to have an open atrium, three stories high. The design team had a fire smoke analysis performed to ensure occupant safety and attain city approval. This is the first time that such a system has been used in the City of Detroit.

The design also included instantaneous hot water heaters throughout the facility. Some water heaters served two or three fixtures, while the majority of the instantaneous water heaters were dedicated to a single lavatory. This strategy reduced energy use, mitigated bacterial formation, and avoided significant lengths of piping. No tank-type water heaters were used on this project.

Challenge: Unforeseen conditions emerged during demo/construction, including flooding in the northwest portion of the building caused by an existing, and very fragile, drain tile system. Solution: The team quickly responded by creating a new drain tile layout and installing new sump pumps to constantly remove the water from the area so that new work could proceed. Several additional structural issues were uncovered as well, requiring quick review and design of repairs or remediation measures.

Challenge: Increased scope and scale. The intentional additions to scope and scale after the project was awarded along with the unintentional additions due to the unforeseen conditions led to an elongated schedule and an adjusted budget. Solution: The team was able to adjust through collaboration and coordination.

Challenge: Reimagining a historical building. Solution: The design team balanced retaining the integrity of the existing structure and bringing something new to carry it forward. Existing concrete and brick were restored alongside new steel and glass elements for a seamless cohesion between old and new.

Challenge: Prior to the project, natural light could be found only on the perimeter of the Book Depository. Solution: During the renovation the team removed part of the middle of the building and added a skylight and glass atrium that brought natural light to a three-story space. The team also added large stairways to visibly connect the floors.

Challenge: With building tolerances that did not meet today’s standards, existing columns were out of plumb, requiring each wall to be snapped individually. The floor flatness and floor levelness also differed tremendously. Solution: The unique substrates required varying thickness of concrete topping to obtain tolerances closer to today’s standards.

The outcome: The Book Depository is a fluid space designed to flex for future needs. It houses designers from tenant Newlab, researchers, and companies that build autonomous wheels, electric bicycles, electric recreational vehicles, and more—all with a focus on the intersection of transportation and society and the development, testing, and launching of new mobility solutions.

Ford Motor Company
Detroit, MI
270,000-sf Renovation
Services Provided

Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, Technology, Acoustics, Architectural Lighting