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The needle will, indeed, function as a broadcast antenna. It is described on the Port Authority’s website as an antenna. On the other hand, the structure will have more meat to it than your average antenna, with external cladding encasing the broadcast mast.
Without that spire, One World Trade Center would still be smaller than the Willis Tower in Chicago, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which tops out at 1,451 feet (not including its own antennas).
A look at the tallest completed buildings in U.S.
The tallest completed buildings in the United States, as measured from the lowest public entrance to the highest architectural element, not including antennas. After it is finished, One World Trade Center may take over the top spot, but only if you count its rooftop spire, which reaches to 1,776 feet.
1 » Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Chicago, 1974: 1,451 feet.
2 » Trump International Hotel and Tower, Chicago, 2009: 1,389 feet.
3 » Empire State Building, New York, 1931: 1,250 feet.
4 » Bank of America Tower, New York, 2009: 1,200 feet.
5 » Aon Center, Chicago, 1973: 1,136 feet.
Source: Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitats.
Debate over which of those buildings can truly claim to be the tallest in the U.S. has been raging for years on Internet message boards frequented by skyscraper enthusiasts.
As for the Council on Tall Buildings, it is leaning toward giving One World Trade the benefit of the doubt.
"This is something we have discussed with the architect," Hollister said. "As we understand it, the needle is an architectural spire which happens to enclose an antenna. We would thus count it as part of the architectural height."
But, he noted, the organization has also chosen to sidestep these types of disputes, somewhat, by recognizing three types of height records: tallest occupied floor, architectural top, and height to the tip.
Hollister also pointed out that, technically speaking, One World Trade Center isn’t a record-holder in any category yet, as it is still unfinished.
"A project is not considered a building until it is topped out, fully clad, and open for business or at least occupiable," he said.
The debate doesn’t quite end there.
Neither of the Willis Tower nor One World Trade are as high as the CN Tower, in Toronto, which stands at 1,815 feet. That structure, however, isn’t considered a building at all by most record-keepers, because it is predominantly a television broadcast antenna and observation platform with very little interior space. The tallest manmade structure in the Western Hemisphere will continue to be the 2,063-foot-tall KVLY-TV antenna in Blanchard, N.D.
As for the world’s tallest building, the undisputed champion is the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, which opened in 2010 and reaches 2,717 feet.
Not counting about 5 feet of aircraft lights and other equipment perched on top, of course.
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