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$4B World Trade Center Oculus is Still Leaking

Friday, June 16, 2017

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The World Trade Center’s transportation hub—known as the Oculus—is reportedly still leaking and no one is taking the blame.


The New York City structure opened in March 2016 but the interior was reportedly unfinished. At that point, the hub—designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava—had racked up a price tag of $4 billion, double the original estimated cost, and was already opening a year late, 11 years after construction started.

Workers at the site now have gone on record to say that the building was a rushed job that left a lot of things unfinished.

Silverstain Properties LLC

The World Trade Center’s transportation hub—known as the Oculus—is reportedly still leaking and no one is taking the blame.

“Everything is not done so you’ve have to come back and do it,” said construction worker Shawn Cumberbatch, who was caulking a seam in the main room that had been left unsealed for months. “They just wasted a lot of cash over here. This should have been done. If they just took their time and got it right the first time, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

In a winged shape, the white curved steel-ribbed walls of the hub are 160 feet tall and 350 feet long, fanning away from a 330-foot skylight in the middle that can open on temperate days. The platforms are 34 and 60 feet below street level.

The depth and position of the structure are what The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operataes the hub, is using to place blame for leaks elsewhere.

What Happened

As with the original leak in 2015 that delayed construction, the Port Authority blamed a leak that sprung in early May after a heavy downpour on the adjacent construction of Richard Rogers’ Three World Trade Center tower.

“Somehow water is getting into open areas of World Trade Center Three, leaking into Tower Three,” said Port Authority spokesperson Steve Coleman. “Once it leaks into lower levels, all those areas below ground are interconnected. And if you look at the areas of leaks, they’re under the Tower Three footprint.”

Developer Silverstein Properties LLC fired back saying that theory was impossible because Tower Three has not signs of water damage.

“Anyone who suggests that the water leaking into the Oculus somehow originated at Three World Trade Center ... is all wet,” said Silverstein spokesperson Bud Perrone. “All of the areas impacted by rainwater are parts of the Hub project, built and operated by the Port Authority.”

In a different interview, Silverstein spokesperson Dara McQuillan went further, saying, “Three World Trade Center is 80 floors high and almost completely enclosed in glass and steel. All of the areas impacted by rainwater are parts of the Port Authority's projects, built and operated by the Port Authority."

During the leak on May 6, inches of water pooled in the structure, shutting down its eastern mezzanine.

The day after, buckets were still strategically placed on the floor and fresh spackling was spotted in the ceiling.

Weeks later, however, maintenance workers are still seen regularly mopping the marble floors.

“There are leaks on this side and that side, those two balconies, by the elevators, and then the back also. It’s a mess,” said one worker. “We soak it up and drain it. It’s a lot of work. It’s nonstop.”

When asked in late May about the continued leaks, the Port Authority issued a statement to the New York Post saying, “There were no leaks in the Oculus this week.”

What Now

One thing that’s for certain is that no one is happy, and no one expected a year-old $4 billion structure to have this problem, and it is reportedly under investigation.

“Four billion dollars is a lot of money. I think it could’ve been better spent, and now there are questions about the integrity of the construction of the Port Authority is looking at,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “But I would agree with them.”


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Construction; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); North America; Port Authority of New York; Roofs; water leakage

Comment from Fred Salome, (6/16/2017, 9:46 PM)

A fundamental of waterproofing is to divert water away from a building, known to builders for millennia. The corrolary is never build a box gutter. A design such as this breaks this fundamental law. To then have opening panels where the box gutter should (or preferably should not) be presents even greater challenges. Waterproofing is an integral part of building and design, and does not seem to have been thought through clearly in this instance. Remedial waterproofing costs a lot more than preventative. So many lessons from this one example.

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