Photo by Rita Catinella Orrell
On Tuesday, a few RECORD editors braved 30-mile-an-hour winds on the 89th floor of One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Our host, ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas, led us on a generous tour of the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed tower, still very much an active construction site as it inches toward 104 floors. After donning steel-toed boots, hardhats, and protective glasses, we were able to clomp around where few members of the public have ventured. It was moving to see construction workers tightening bolts and hoisting supplies on pulleys—it’s easy to forget that skyscrapers are made by hand.
The focus of this tour was the massive and sophisticated elevator system that ThyssenKrupp specially-engineered for the tower. As Joseph Braman, ThyssenKrupp’s Regional Vice President (NY), says, elevators “make a building work or not work.” Four million pounds of steel rails are being installed to guide the elevators. Special bolts hold the rails to the side of the building, but allow it the flexibility it needs to sway.
The first elevator cabs at One WTC will be installed in the next two weeks. The rest may be installed by September of 2013. As of now, 74 shafts are planned.
When they are functioning, the elevators will travel at a speed of 2,000 feet per minute, or 23 miles per hour, making them the fastest in North or South America (Asia already uses this technology). The high speed allows the building to accommodate hundreds of thousands more visitors per year, explained Braman. The fast speeds are made possible, in part, by shrouds on the elevator cabs that slice through the air like a knife. (Domed shrouds compress air and make cabs go slower.)
The elevator system will be “destination dispatch,” meaning there are no buttons inside the elevator. Instead, the cab is dispatched from the lobby on each floor using touchscreens. The motors that power the elevators were built in Germany and are LEED-compliant. They pump electricity back into the line when the elevator moves up.
We rode up this exterior hoist to the 39th floor, where we transferred to an internal lift. Thankfully, we couldn't see outside the cab as we were riding up.
All Photography Provided By Joel Woolhead (unless otherwise noted)