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Official height of One World Trade Center In dispute

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One World Trade Center, under construction near the site of the original World Trade Towers in New York City, may not become the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere after all. If the 408-foot antenna is not included, the official height of the building would be reduced to 1,368 feet. This reduced height would move One World Trade Center from first to third in height in the Western Hemisphere, behind the Willis Tower (1,451 feet) and Trump Tower (1,389 feet), both located in Chicago.

The issue is the decision not to enclose the antenna in an ornamental casing, which was included in the original design. Without the ornamental casing, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the official arbiter of super-tall buildings worldwide, might rule that the antenna is functional rather than ornamental. CTBUH will reserve its official decision until 2014, after construction on One World Trade Center has been completed.

In the original design, the antenna on One World Trade Center was supposed to be encased in an ornamental white fiberglass and steel enclosure called a radome. The enclosure would have brought the architectural height of the building to a symbolic 1,776 feet. This measurement would also have given the building the official title as the tallest in North America, surpassing the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). However, given the decision to forgo the ornamental casing, the structure's architectural height has fallen into question.

The developers argue that even without the decorative casing, the spire is ornamental, not functional. It will be illuminated with LEDs, with communication equipment attached only to its base. The developers also claimed that safety concerns, rather than a desire to save money, motivated the design change. Cleaning and repairing the casing would have required crews to scale the the spire, along with cables extending to the plaza, according to the developers.

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