At One World Trade Center, Plans for Energy Efficiency Fall Through After Sandy Hits

worldtradeOne World Trade Center, the building that now stands tall in the void left after the 9/11 attacks, was intended to be one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the tallest.

According to a December 9 Grist report, the Freedom Tower’s construction plan included lighting that responded to the amount of sunshine present, rain harvesting technology an onsite clean-energy fuel cell installation that could convert natural gas into energy using an electrochemical process rather than burning it. Few other buildings around the world possess this type of installation.

All the hopes surrounding the building’s green credentials, however, largely disappeared as soon as Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.

According to a 26-page document that Grist obtained from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Sandy wreaked havoc on the building’s $10.6 million fuel cells when some 200 million gallons of water flooded out the building’s basement and lower levels. To this day, a third of those nine fuel cells remain unrepaired and unreplaced.

“It’s always good to have a full system in place and to make sure you have a battery backup system as well in times of heavy rain and power outages. However, when dealing with hurricane-type flooding, it is often hard to do anything about it,” says Austin Werner, Owner of The Real Seal, LLC.

The loss of its fuel cells to Sandy meant the Freedom Tower could no longer be fully energy-independent — and financial pressures, labyrinthine agreements with tower tenants and strict deadlines have rendered the building’s developers unable to repair the fuel cells for now. The Freedom Tower’s developers now risk breaking a promise to achieve LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, a certification needed to adhere to the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s stringent green building standards, Grist reports.

While it’s still possible that the Freedom Tower will earn its LEED plaque in the near future if the fuel cells can be repaired, the grand LEED-certified opening that the building’s developers originally envisioned has vanished.