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Posted on August 6th, 2013

Our Changing Landscape – Rebuilding the World Trade Center

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 4 billion square kilometers of data. This month, we track the progress of the World Trade Center reconstruction.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers a daily revisit time to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a base price of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data available in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

Rebuilding the World Trade Center, New York City

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color imagery collected over the WTC site, New York  on April 29, 2010, July 1, 2011, August 31, 2012 and April 8, 2013. The site of the WTC rebuild is at the center of these images and starts off as mostly dirt. In the 2012 and 2013 image, you can see significant progress on the build of the new WTC towers so that it obscures much of the open ground below and some of the surrounding buildings. You can also clearly see the construction of the National 9/11 Memorial in the 2010 image and their completion in the 2012 and 2013 images. (Images Courtesy: RapidEye)

September 11, 2001 is a day that is burned into the memory of most if not all of us. Since this fateful day, the majority of the former World Trade Center site has been cleared and is being rebuilt. In 2003, architect Daniel Libeskind’s master plan for the World Trade Center (WTC) was selected from the various submissions. His design envisions a spiral of buildings which descend in height, starting in the northwest corner and ending at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum where the original WTC buildings stood. There are six key buildings included in Libeskind’s Master Plan:

  • 1 World Trade Center – this will be the iconic structure of the master plan and is scheduled to open in 2014. Building of the tower started April 2006 and is estimated to cost $3.6 billion when completed (that is $1,200 per square foot). The new tower will have 104 floors and 2.6 million square feet (sq ft) of office space; with a final height of 1,776 feet after the addition of a 408-foot antenna, it will be the tallest in the United States. 45,000 tons of structural steel will be used to construct 1 WTC which is 6 times that in the Eiffel Tower. There will be 71 elevators in the building, 5 of them high speed traveling at nearly 23 miles per hour.
  • 2 World Trade Center – building of this tower will not commence until the commercial real estate market recovers in the City. It will be an 88-story, 1,270 feet structure when built.
  • 3 World Trade Center – groundbreaking for this tower took place January 2008 and is schedule for completion in 2015 or 2016. It is designed to stand 1,150 feet tall with 80 stories.
  • 4 World Trade Center – construction of this tower started in 2008 and it will be the first office building opened on the plaza. 4 WTC is scheduled to open October 2013 at 72 stories and 977 feet tall.
  • 7 World Trade Center – this building is located across the street from the WTC Plaza which will contain the rest of the structures mentioned here. The first structure opened after 9/11, 7 WTC is 741 feet tall with 42 tenant floors that average 40,000 sq ft per floor. The lower floors are mechanical and a Con Edison power substation for lower Manhattan.
  • 5 World Trade Center – this site will be developed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who were also responsible for the development of 1 WTC. As of 2011, the old Deutsche Bank Building was demolished where 5 WTC will stand – it was the last pre-9/11 structure that stood on the 16-acre reconstruction site. The final designs of 5 WTC seem to change once a year with current plans calling for a 42-story building.
  • National 9/11 Memorial and Museum – occupying the footprint of the towers that were lost on 9/11, the memorial features two reflecting pools with 30-foot human made waterfalls around the perimeter (the largest in North America). Each pool holds 450,000 gallons which is enough to fill the pipes of the Empire State building 50 times! The National 9/11 Memorial opened on the tenth anniversary of the tragedy; and as of now, the Museum is still mired in government and funding battles with an expected completion date of 2014.

The series of RapidEye images that accompanies this article picks up the progress of the rebuild during 2010 and follows it to April 2013.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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