Constructing America’s New Tallest Building: The One World Trade Center

In November 2013, Chicago lost its title as the American city with the tallest building. After much debate over the definition of “antenna,” a 25- member committee at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat decided that New York’s new One World Trade Center would take the

The Beginning

The symbolic cornerstone of the One World Trade Center was ceremoniously laid down in 2004, but construction didn’t begin until 2006 due to financial, security, and design concerns. In the summer of 2006, workers detonated explosives at the new construction site to test the building’s foundation. Beams were first installed and welded in at the end of 2006 and into 2007, and the footings and foundations were complete by the end of that year.

The Construction

The tower has a concrete core, which crews began rising in 2008. The redundant steel frame of the building contributes to its rigidity, and its column-free interior provides for maximum flexibility. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey crews were able to build nearly one floor per week by mid-2010, including the glass facade panels. Construction in 2012 was marked by several delays, due to high winds, icy conditions, and steel supplier issues. Currently, One WTC is more than 55 percent leased, with publisher, Condé Nast, as its anchor tenant occupying nearly 1.2 million square feet to house its global headquarters.

Developers worked with world leaders in environmental-friendly efficiency and sustainability to minimize waste and pollution, improve air quality, conserve water, and reduce the impacts of development. One WTC has earned LEED Gold Certification, exceeded energy performance code requirements by 20%, employed cooling systems to utilize rainwater, and used waste steam to generate electricity.

The Controversy

The main issue heard by the council was whether One World Trade Center’s height should be measured to the top of the needle, which serves as a broadcast antenna, or just to the roof of the building. The architects who developed the tower’s design originally intended to enclose the mast with fiberglass and steel. But after the developer decided that the exterior shell would be impossible to maintain and repair, the exposed mast simply served as a broadcast antenna. The antenna, also called a spire, stands 408-feet tall, bringing the total building height from 1,368 feet to 1,776 feet tall.

Chicagoans, who take great pride in their architecture and status as home to America’s first skyscraper, did not take the ruling lightly. “If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then it is an antenna,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented after the announcement. “At the Willis Tower, you have a panoramic view that is unmatched. You can’t get a view like that from an antenna.”

The Significance

one-world-trade-2In spite of the controversy, One World Trade Center holds a great deal of significance for the American public. It stands as a monument and a memorial for those killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The design of One World Trade Center, as explained to us, reinforces its role as a symbol of resurgence on this important site,” Antony Wood, the executive director of the council, said in a statement. “In particular, the spire which holds the beacon light, shining out at the symbolic height of 1,776 feet, is especially poignant — echoing the similarly symbolic beacon atop the Statue of Liberty across the water.”

Say what you will, but the One World Trade Center set a new standard for building design. It combines an innovative mixture of architecture, sustainability, and safety through simplistic form, redundant steel frames, and a flexible column-free interior. This building also reflects unprecedented collaborations with world leaders in technology, energy, efficiency, and safety. One World Trade Center was designed to be the safest commercial structure in the world, with 3 million square feet of working space and an address that will forever remind Americans of their solidarity and resilience.


Photo credit: Cathy Baird, Tim1337 via WikiMedia Commons

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