Loss of composites might cost WTC tallest building title

A decision to eliminate a series of tapered fiberglass plates atop the new World Trade Center in New York City might cost the building valuable "official" height as it aims to be the tallest building in the United States.

Architectural Record reported on Aug. 15 that new renderings of One World Trade Center released last week give a more detailed look at a slimmed-­down design for the Lower Manhattan Skyscraper’s 408-­ft/124m spire. Not only could the design change — which involves exclusion of architechtural composite panels in the original design — keep the tower from reaching a symbolic height, it might also compromise its bid to be the tallest building in the United States.

According to the report, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and structural consultant Schlaich Bergermann und Partner’s original design for the spire enclosed it in a tapering shield of white fiberglass plates. But last year, in a move that saves $20 million in construction costs, the development team of the Durst Organization and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey decided to remove the cladding, resulting in the narrow metallic mast visible in the recent renderings.

The report notes that the spire is just a bolted­-on antenna, rather than an architectural element, thus it would not count toward the building’s official height, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, the organization recognized as the official score­keeper for towers across the globe.

One World Trade would then clock in at just 1,368 ft/417m, earning it second­-tallest status behind Chicago’s 1,451­-ft/442m Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). In addition, One World Trade would fall well short of its symbolic goal of 1,776 ft/541m tall—the date the country’s Declaration of Independence was signed.

Click Architectural Record for original report.