Freedom Fighter *
With New York's Freedom Tower, Guy Battle sets out to restore hope—and the environment
Anna Holtzman -- Interior Design, 6/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
For those who know him, Guy Battle is a superhero, out to defend the universe against evil. In 1993, the British engineer joined forces with fellow engineer Christopher McCarthy to found Battle McCarthy Consulting Engineers & Landscape Architects, an interdisciplinary practice committed to making the built environment more sustainable.
Based in London, Battle McCarthy is currently working with Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates on the proposed football stadium for the New York Jets as well as with Perkins & Will on a courthouse in Los Angeles. First on the agenda, however, is Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's symbolic Freedom Tower, scheduled to break ground July 4 at New York's World Trade Center site—regardless of the myriad controversies swirling around it.
It's the swirling of the wind that most interests Battle. He's creating the entire sustainability strategy for this much-anticipated project, its "green" focal point being a forest of energy-harvesting turbines at the tower's 1,776-foot-tall pinnacle.
How did you approach the Freedom Tower project?
Since towers are traditionally seen as degrading a city, we thought, How do we design one that's in fact beneficial to the city and the environment? The ultimate goal is to produce more energy than the tower needs, collect more rainwater than it needs, and even process waste—its own and the city's.
Where did the idea for the wind turbines come from?
Before the turbine came the twist. There are strong structural reasons why the building twists, but the twist actually improves quality of life and the environment as well.
The tower is a sort of diamond shape, with the point facing toward the northwest, where most of New York's winds come from. Wind goes around the building as opposed to down a flat face. This way, there isn't so much draft around the base at the pedestrian level, which was an issue with the twin towers. Also, because the building twists up and around, and its broad side is facing into the wind, it has the highest potential for collecting energy. There's a rectangular fin at the top—that's where we'll put the turbines.
How much energy do they produce?
The turbines provide the base energy load for the building, anywhere between 10 and 20 percent. If every tenant goes for the lowest-energy solution, the turbines have the potential for producing up to 50 percent of energy used.
Is the U.S. still behind Europe in terms of green design?
It has been in the past, but we've noticed that sustainable agendas are being taken much more seriously in the States over the past year. Especially in New York State. Governor Pataki has been fundamental in pushing the environmental agenda and the new energy code, which is excellent and demanding.
Why has interest grown?
In New York, the Freedom Tower has set up a great debate about reliance on imported oil and got the developers to think about sustainability issues. LEED also seems to be making an impact, and ironically—perhaps because of the U.S. government stance against the environmental protocols established at the 1997 Kyoto conference—many architects and developers have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Is all this creating more work for you stateside?
Yes, without a doubt. It's important to find developers who are truly serious about sustainability. Luckily for us, both Silverstein Properties and SOM partner David Childs have been more than open to green discussions. As with any great design, it's very much a partnership.
What's on your agenda for the future?
We're on a mission to save the world from global warming and self-destruction! Our goal is to push architects and developers to build structures that are truly sustainable in the largest sense. We do have a long way to go, and it's step by step, but the Freedom Tower is a big step. It's sure to have a massive impact on the market—in this city, this country, and the world.
Guy Battle, a founding partner of Battle McCarthy Consulting Engineers & Landscape Architects.
The London firm's computer rendering of the Freedom Tower's energy-harvesting wind turbines, encased in crisscrossing cables.
A rendering of the public atrium in Perkins & Will's Los Angeles courthouse. The tower twists to face northwest, which reduces draft at street level while maximizing the potential for energy collection by the turbines.
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates's proposed New York Jets Stadium would also employ wind turbines as well as photovoltaic panels, wastewater treatment systems, and a rainwater collection system with on-site recycling.