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One World Trade Center replaces Willis Tower as the tallest building in America

Although no longer the tallest building in the United States, Willis Tower remains the tallest steel-frame building in the world.
Audrey F. Henderson -- All Rights Reserved

The official word is in: on November 12, 2013, the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) certified the official architectural height of One World Trade Center, presently under construction in New York City, at the symbolically significant figure of 1,776 feet. As a result, One World Trade Center replaces Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower) as the tallest building in the United States, allowing the Big Apple to snatch bragging rights away from the Second City. Willis Tower, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1974, remains the world's tallest steel-frame building, with an architectural height of 1,451 feet.

For more than a year, the official architectural height of One World Trade Center, presently under construction, had been called into question. At issue was whether the spire atop the building would be considered "ornamental" and an intrinsic part of the architectural design of the building, or as a "functional" appendage. The original design called for the spire to have a decorative cladding of fiberglass and steel, which the CTBUH accepted as ornamental.

However, the design was changed while the building was under construction, which sparked questions about whether the spire would be included in the building's official height. After the owner/design team of One World Trade Center made its case to the CTBUH, the Height Committee was satisfied that even with the modifications made to One World Trade Center, that the spire remained an architectural detail integral to the design of the building,. As a result, the spire was included in measuring the building's architectural height, which was taken from its main entrance to the tip of the spire.

Had the CTBUH disallowed the spire as an architectural feature of One World Trade Center, its architectural height would only have been 1,334 feet, 8 inches -- the height of the building from the main entrance to the roof slab. By contrast, height of Wills Tower from the ground to the tip of its antennae is 1,729 feet. However, since the antennae were added after the building's completion, and are considered to be functional rather than ornamental, the CTBUH does not include them in Willis Tower's architectural height.