Red, White, Blue, and Green – A Tribute to the 9/11 Memorial

by staff on September 19, 2011

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The United States has fundamentally changed in the last 10 year since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Our country’s priorities, from national security to energy conservation and sustainability, have progressed.  Last Sunday marked the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, as well as the opening of the National September 11 Memorial. The Memorial is a tribute to those nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11, and those in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Created by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, the memorial is a green, sustainable plaza symbolizing America’s environmental initiatives.

The plaza is eight acres, situated in the footprints of the Twin Towers. It features two large reflecting pools with waterfalls, functioning like a giant hydroponic flood table. These pools use recycled rainwater, which is ideal for a city averaging 40 or more inches of rain annually. After satiating the trees, the rainwater drains off and is stored in the two pools and irrigates back into vegetation. This process can accumulate practically enough water to independently supply the pools, conserving energy and water. The nearly 3,000 names of the individuals who were killed are inscribed around the edges of the Memorial pools.

The project and the rainwater conservation pools are pursuing the LEED Gold certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s New Construction program. The plaza is also built to meet requirements of New York State Executive Order 11 and the World Trade Center Sustainable Design Guidelines, which both promote environment-friendly practices. Trees and soil were harvested and selected from within a 500-mile radius of the World Trade Center site, and from locations in Pennsylvania and near Washington, D.C., areas impacted on September 11, 2001. Swamp white oaks were picked because of their uniqueness and durability. The trees will never be identical; they will grow at different heights, change leaves at different times, and will have different colored leaves. The trees were all trimmed to exactly 11-feet high. The plaza has a suspended paving system that supports the trees and allows their roots to expand in the soil below the cement. The system allows for stable pavement that does not apply pressure to the soil or trees’ roots. The 400 shady trees and their insulating roots will regulate the temperatures of the museum below, which is set to open next September 11.The museum also has a green theme, using recycled pieces and debris from the old buildings. The memorial is free to the public, but visitors must reserve passes online.  Additionally, the Seven World Trade Center building was the gateway to the new WTC, and opened May 2006 to replace the fallen building of 9/11. It is a 52-story, $7 million replacement and the building was LEED-certified and features a system that generates off-peak electricity and composts paper waste. The subsequent World Trade Center buildings have followed suit with sustainable design and LEED certification.

The memorial will be a permanent replacement to the Tribute in Light.  The installations of searchlights at Ground Zero have been utilized off-and-on since 2002. There were 88 lights pointed upward into the sky from dawn till dusk. This tribute was popular, but also controversial.  The electricity to power the lights is very expensive and thought of as wasting resources. In 2008, the Municipal Art Society, who had assembled the tribute, decided to make the eco-friendly decision to convert the searchlights to run on biodiesel fuel. The new 9/11 memorial and museum’s message is a strong, sentimental one and will also be a strong symbol of a greener tomorrow.

(Image Credit: 9/11 Memorial)

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