The battered, 32-story
telecommunications center that looms over the north side of
the World Trade Center site has a toughness much deeper than
its stout 76-year-old steel frame and brick and limestone facade.
With only a pause between the death
of its backup batteries at 10:21 p.m. on Sept. 11 and the
restoration of emergency power on the night of Sept. 16, the
center has continuously processed millions of calls and data
transmissions daily through banks of delicate equipment that
have been smothered by corrosive dust, exposed to the elements
and even, in some cases, suspended in space by cables when
floors fell crashing away.
Verizon call center, pierced and beaten is being upgraded
and restored. (Photo courtesy of Bernstein Associates
A multipronged reconstruction program
is in progress. Environmental cleanup is complete and a gut
renovation is under way. Restoration of the facade, a job
begun well before Sept. 11, has resumed. A new mechanical
and electrical system is being installed. Switching and routing
equipment, most of which still functions but whose reliability
was seriously compromised, are also being replaced.
The owner, Verizon Communications,
New York City, says it expects the total cost to hit $1.4
billion. It hopes to move administrative staff back in by
late 2003. "It's the telecommunications equipment that
makes it so expensive," says Verizon spokesman John Bonomo.
Through it all the call center
continues to operate as the nexus of 300,000 voice lines and
4.5 million data lines in the financial hub of the world.
"It's like changing flat tires on a moving bus,"
says John V. Magliano, a partner with project mechanical and
electrical engineers Syska Hennessy Group, New York City.
The building took a pounding on
Sept. 11. The fall of One World Trade Center, the 110-story
tower 360 ft away, rained windows, parapets and the facade
from the eleventh floor down with a hail of debris. Flying
beams pierced walls and cut into cables and telecommunications
gear. Choking dust and a 9 to 12-million-gal basement flood
ravaged the interior.
PUNCH Call center was struck from two sides by
successive collapses. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs
"By far the worst damage"
was caused hours later by the collapse of the 47-story Seven
WTC, 60 ft away, says Andrew Mueller-Lust, project manager
for structural engineer Severud Associates, New York City.
The building burned and fell late in the day on Sept. 11.
Debris stacked against the face of the Verizon building to
the fifth floor and the bottom of the pile pushed into it
at grade level. The pressure bent two adjacent steel columns
20 ft apart, just above and just below grade. Despite that,
Mueller-Lust says "the overall building frame was apparently
not significantly displaced." George Famulare, Verizon
real estate area manager, says "right now we're working
on infrastructure mostly," with extensive repairs from
the 10th floor down.
Famulare's office is in the building
and he was one of a handful of managers and engineers who
stayed with it through the heart of the disaster. It was important
to manipulate air handling equipment and backup electrical
systems to try to minimize damage, and then start the recovery
process as soon as possible.
Construction management is by Tishman
Interiors, which was on the exterior renovation project prior
to Sept. 11. It has a staff of 23 housed in new offices created
on the first floor in the early phase of the cleanup. "We're
giving our undivided attention to fulfilling the owners' requirements,"
says Bob McNally, Tishman vice president and project executive.
Environmental cleanup was an urgent
priority from the beginning, says Burton Fried, president
of LVI Services, New York City, an environmental engineer
that had 500 workers on the job in three shifts for months.
"After doing the first remediation we cleaned the remaining
floors, all the way to the top, under asbestos containment
conditions," Fried says.
Heavy dust continues to infiltrate,
however. Racks of communications gear require constant re-cleaning.
They are being replaced by equipment installed in newly created,
environmentally controlled switch and frame rooms in other
parts of the building.
Cleanup also involved removal of
30 ft of contaminated water from lower levels. Onsite separators
extracted 40,000 gal of petroleum products from fuel tanks
that floated and spun over. An aggressive mold bloom on one
basement level was also attacked with disinfectant.
LIFE New backup generators will support replaced
equipment. (Photo by Tom Sawyer for ENR)
All building systems are operating
now in temporary mode. The mechanical plant on the next-to-lowest
basement level was submerged. Chillers for a replacement plant
with double the old capacity were delivered in early August.
"We're rebuilding it now on the first floor," Famulare
Electrical service capacity is
being upgraded from 12 Mw to 20 Mw. Two emergency backup generators
lost in the flood are being replaced by four 4.2 Mw units
going in on the 10th floor. Backup batteries, which reversed
polarity when they were totally discharged, are being replaced
and increased in number from 440 to 584 to support system
expansion. Steam, fire protection and plumbing systems are
also being extensively repaired.
Mueller-Lust says repairs to one
column and several spandrel beams and associated floor sections
on the face overlooking Ground Zero are complete.
Now, preparations are being made
to splice in four new exterior column sections on the face
damaged by debris from Seven WTC, although street utility
work is delaying access needed to construct foundations for
Famulare says if Verizon had known
a year ago how much "pain and expense" the job would
entail, its officials might have had second thoughts. But
back then,"we never had a doubt," he says. "And
we've been at it ever since."