On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center transformed from a pair of gleaming towers into a carcinogenic pile of smoldering rubble that's still killing people. Currently rising out of that rubble, though, is a skyscraper with the most environmentally advanced technologies ever attempted at the scale.
Live at LEEDs
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification is an internationally-recognized third-party verification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to confirm that a building—or community, for that matter—was designed and constructed with the aim of improving energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions, indoor environmental quality, and intelligent resource management.
For the new WTC complex to qualify for the LEED Gold Certification—the second highest attainable below Platinum status—it must meet a number of requirements, among which include acheiving a Net Zero CO2 footprint for all base building electricity consumption and reduction of the complex's energy consumption to 20 percent below New York State's energy code requirements.
"The building is designed to achieve a gold level certification. Which, for a project of its size, would be a first of its kind, Eduardo Del Valle, Director of Design Management at 1 World Trade Center, told us. "Now, there are some other projects in New York City that have achieved a Platinum certification, which is the highest—but not on this scale."
Energy Conservation and Production
One means of achieving these goals is "Daylighting"—which thankfully involves neither Bruce Willis nor Cybill Shepherd. Instead, as Del Valle points out, "if enough daylight is coming into the window it automatically dims the interior lights. It's all about reducing energy consumption. Every space within 15 feet of the facade will be equipped with dimming devices."
This practice not only benefits the WTC's energy consumption, but the occupants of the towers as well, increasing productivity and reducing the rate of minor illnesses, as well as promoting bone health and increase the activity of natural killer cells simply by improving the quality of light. Because humans require exposure to UVB light in order to synthesize Vitamin D, the dimming of artificial lights and use of ultra-clear glass to allow more natural light in.
When the sun isn't shining, the WTC employs hydrogen fuel cells to provide approximately 1.2 megawatts of power and steam turbines which, according to DelValle, "take the wasted steam that happens during steam generation and converts that into electricity."
Breathing Easier in and around the WTC
During construction, the WTC is requiring its contractors to use only ultra-low sulfur diesel fuels—a "clean diesel" that reduces nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions and is considered one of the cleanest fuels available. This implementation is so effective that New York City and State now require that non-road construction equipment used on public construction projects by public agencies use ULSD. In addition, all construction vehicles are equipped with extra particulate filters to further reduce their impact. Finally, the materials used in the complex cannot include any Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)—a variety of chemicals that leach from building materials in gaseous form with both short- and long-term health effects.
After construction is complete, Del Valle states that, to further improve indoor air quality, they're going to watch it like a cybernetic hawk:
CO2 monitors control ventilation and make the building healthier and improve indoor air quality. If the CO2 sensor sends a signal to the air handler software, telling it you need more fresh air in a certain space because there's more CO2 than there should be, it automatically increases the fresh air mix coming into that space. We have over 3000 points of monitoring.
In addition, the WTC will improve the air of the greater Manhattan Financial District by reducing the amount of vehicular traffic in the area by providing ample public transportation access and extensive facilities for bicycle commuters.