ESD’s Summer Tours: Cool Buildings, Hot Glass

SOUTHFIELD — School may be out for the summer, but The Engineering Society of Detroit definitely is not.

ESD’s series of exclusive, members-only tours is continuing right through the summer, with three tours of new buildings whose construction was so high-tech they won this year’s ESD Construction & Design Awards, and a tour of a fascinating industrial process — the making of glass on a mammoth scale.

The tours will take place as follows:

* Wednesday, July 22: ESD tours the John D. Dingell Transit Center, 21201 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. The Dingell Center is a high-tech transportation hub that connects rail, bus and taxi services, plus a link to a 20-mile-long non-motorized greenway. It also offers direct service to southeast Michigan’s No. 1 tourist attraction, The Henry Ford. The 16,000-square-foot building won honorable mention in this year’s ESD Construction & Design Awards. The $28.2 million project has many innovative features, including a 60-well geothermal heating system, advanced LED lighting, bio-swales for runoff treatment, and moveable resin passenger platforms that meet ADA requirements for passenger trains while still allowing freight carriers to bring wide, low loads through the station. Registration and networking are at 1 p.m., the tour from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

* Wednesday, Aug. 12: ESD tours the Wayne State University Advanced Technology Education Center, 14601 E. 12 Mile Road, Warren. The building is an adaptive reuse and renovation of an existing 40,000-square-foot grocery store. The plan involved converting the nondescript building into one reflecting a higher education environment inside and out, while meeting the $12 million budget and sustainability goals. The building features a vibrant atrium bathed in natural light, and uses flexible furniture ideal for impromptu meetings. A new mezzanine level creates private space. Flexible classrooms are built on raised floors, allowing for power and data distribution throughout. In terms of sustainability, the majority of exterior brick and structural steel was reused, natural light is delivered into corridors and interior spaces with solar tubes, the landscaping is designed not to need irrigation, advanced plumbing fixtures were used, and advanced HVAC and lighting systems were used. Registration and networking begin at 2 p.m., the tour from 2:30 to 3:30.

* Thursday, Aug. 20: Join ESD for an exclusive, members-only tour of the region’s newest engineering education showplace – the spectacular new 128,000-square-foot Oakland University Engineering Center in Rochester. The five-story structure is the University’s new building for its School of Engineering and Computer Sciences which provides advanced technologies for academic engineering studies, while sustainable mechanical and electrical systems serve as hands-on learning tools for students. The $74.5 million building also includes a high-bay capstone lab, clean room, full service machine shop, and rooftop energy lab where students conduct experiments on solar and wind generation. A spectacular atrium lobby includes creatively designed nooks for study and small group meetings. Throughout the building are scattered small collaborative spaces that can be closed off or opened up in creative ways. The building is also open, with windows everywhere, including from classrooms and laboratories to interior hallways, offices and labs. The building also features many energy efficiency touches, and will apply for LEED Gold certification. Included are high-efficiency LED lighting with motion detectors in classrooms and laboratories, rainwater capture for landscaping irrigation, and onsite power generation — two 200-kilowatt natural gas-fired turbines. Registration and networking begin at 2 p.m., with the tour from 2:30 to 3:30.

* Thursday, Aug. 27: ESD tours Guardian Industries Corp.’s Float Glass Plant at 14600 Romine Road in Carleton. The afternoon will begin with registration and networking at 1:30 p.m. At about 1:45 there will be a brief presentation on the history of the plant, with the tour from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Please wear sturdy shoes (no sandals) and long pants. Safety goggles will be provided at the plant. And please note that it will be very warm inside the plant. Construction on the massive plant began in 1969. At the time, it was one of only a handful of float glass plants in the world. A revolutionary technology introduced in the United Kingdom in 1959, float glass is manufactured by pouring molten glass onto one end of a shallow “bath” of molten tin at about 2,000 degrees. The molten glass is shaped into a ribbon, and floats on the tin until it cools to about 1,100 degrees, cool enough to be taken up by rollers without marring the surface. At Guardian, raw materials — silica sand, soda ash, limestone and other ingredients — enter the furnace and are heated to 2,900 degrees. Then they’re poured onto the tin bath. At the end of the bath, the glass is carefully cooled through a temperature-controlled kiln called a lehr down to 125 degrees. Then the glass is further cooled by forced air, cut to customer-specific dimensions, and packed by employees and robotic arms for coating or direct shipment to customers.

ESD tours are $25 for ESD members. Nonmembers can join ESD for $75 (a 25 percent discount) and take the tour for free. (This offer is good for new, first-time members only.) For more information or to sign up for the tours, visit or contact Matt Roush, ESD Director of Communications and Public Relations, at (248) 353-0735, ext. 112.

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