Green at Ground Zero

New buildings at World Trade Center site incorporate eco-friendly elements.

Sept. 14, 2008 -- After seven years, the Manhattan skyline still seems empty, with the Twin Towers gone and with no new structure in place.

Rebuilding has been slowed by bickering over blueprints, real estate and regulations. The project is behind schedule and over budget.

"This was a place in which we had really hoped that America could show the world not just that it was coming back quickly after 9/11, but it was doing the very best thing imaginable," said Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and author of "Up from Zero."

Though the process may be sluggish, rebuilding has begun. And New York City is redefining itself by projecting eco-friendly giants into a new skyline, particularly in a neighborhood still growing out of the ashes of a national tragedy.

Some of the most eco-innovative skyscrapers of modern times have been erected since 2001, including the Hearst Building and the nearly finished Bank of America structure. New apartments constructed sustainably will house some of the 60,000 residents moving into Lower Manhattan, the fastest-growing residential community in the nation.

"It's remarkable that we can look at this area with awe which reinforces the resilience and the resurgence of this great neighborhood and this great city," said John Lieber, president of World Trade Center Properties.

A portion of Ground Zero has already been rebuilt. World Trade Center 7 opened in May of 2006 and became the city's first green office building, with energy-efficient lighting and recycled building materials. A LEED-certified gold building, it's already at 75 percent occupancy.

"If we have led the way with environmentally friendly buildings that are also at the core at the lead of life safety and technology, I think that it will reflect the fact that America's office occupants tomorrow are going to want exactly what we're producing in these buildings today," said developer Larry Silverstein.

And when the rest of the World Trade Center is finally finished, it will be a symbol of green engineering. Green office buildings will stand next to the Freedom Tower, set to be America's tallest building. The tower will be powered by a wind farm, solar panels and energy efficient technology. At the heart will be the memorial; footprints of the original towers surrounded by trees and a visitor center. And a transit hub will infuse natural light to the PATH train platform 60 feet below ground.

"I think New York is much stronger and building's one of the things that shows it," Goldberger said. "When we build it's because we have faith in the future."