One World Trade Center—now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere—has also reached new heights in sustainable design. Steven Plate, director of World Trade Center construction for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, gave msnbc an exclusive tour of the green elements of the building that replaced the twin towers brought down during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, will be the most expensive skyscraper ever built, but Plate pointed out that many energy-saving measures, like the podium glass’s LED lighting, are more cost-effective in the long-term. “The glass itself will be backlit with an LED technology, which will use much less energy as well as have much longer life and generate a lot less heat,” Plate said.
Natural light will be used to illuminate the interior and two 25,000-gallon storage tanks on the 57th floor will collect rainwater to help operate other parts of the building. Even the toilets in the high-rise reflect a focus on conservation and clean energy. “Because of the shape of the toilet, it increases the velocity, and you’re able to use a fraction of the amount of water that you used to use in flushing,” Plate said. “It not just helps the environment. It also saves a lot of operational costs.”
But not all—if many—New York City buildings can boast comparable levels of energy efficiency. In fact, Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, called New York City “the Saudi Arabia of inefficient buildings.”
“We waste huge amounts of energy,” Levi said in an interview with msnbc. “And we have a big opportunity to come up with new ways to make our buildings more efficient.”
The Port Authority pursued that opportunity with the World Trade Center complex, and is expected to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification, an international standard for measuring a building’s “greenness.”
The skyscraper will open its doors in early 2014, nearly a decade after construction began in 2006.
Plate said he and his staff believe it is their obligation to leave a legacy, paving the way for a more sustainable city—and world. “This is not mandatory. But it’s something that we, as an agency, the Port Authority…has an obligation in their own minds to accomplish,” Plate said. “This is truly an environmentally friendly, green site.”
For an in-depth look at the future of climate change and clean energy, join Chris Hayes on August 16 at 8 p.m. ET for an msnbc Special: “The Politics of Power.”