RIT alumnus designs and builds new beacon for One World Trade Center
Final installation of beacon above new building and 9/11 Memorial to take place late-April
April 25, 2013
by Michelle Cometa
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When the beacon Thomas Trytek ’91 and his company designed for the top of One World Trade Center is installed in late April, it will shine for miles across Manhattan as a result of work done in Syracuse led by an RIT alumnus.
For Trytek, it was hard not to recall that September morning in 2001, even as his engineers crafted the equipment for the beacon that will be installed atop the skyscraper, the newest business center being built next to the 9/11 Memorial. But he said he’s proud his company is playing a role in the construction of such an important project.
“How can any of us forget that day? That’s why when this opportunity came across it was an honor and it was humbling as well,” says Trytek, one of the founding partners of TDK Engineering Associates PC, located in Syracuse, N.Y. “Working on any part of the project, it was in the back of my mind, and finally visiting the site, actually being on the grounds—I had been down to New York for meetings before, along the outside of the site—but to be there in the new building and watching the construction activities being performed, it is surreal. It’s hallowed ground and deserves the utmost of respect.”
Nearly five years ago, Trytek was approached for this job by a colleague, Mike Murphy, president of the project coordination firm JR Clancy. The latter’s company, best known for theatrical and performing arts center designs and equipment fabrication, also was involved as part of the new World Trade Center reconstruction team. He reached out to TDK knowing of its work in structural and mechanical systems designs that they teamed up with on prior theatrical projects, and asked if they would be interested in the World Trade Center project.
“I was shocked by the request and, I thought, yeah, absolutely! We didn’t know what the project entailed, but certainly couldn’t say no,” says Trytek, a graduate of the civil engineering technology program in RIT’s College of Applied Science and Technology.
The new building would be a combination of retail, office and residential space in a 16-acre complex that includes the memorial as well as a transportation hub. Construction began on the property located in the financial district of New York City in 2006, under the auspices of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The 104 floors of the tower rose steadily over the past several years. Installation of the top-most equipment, spire, the beacon and its reflective mirrors, followed.
The initial beacon installation at the site began around mid-March due to weather conditions, and the final beacon test was just performed on April 15, says Trytek.
“It’s always windy when you’re up that high,” he adds.
One piece of the spire at the top of the building weighed nearly 55 tons. The last two spire sections, one of which houses the beacon, will be lifted as one assembly toward the end of April.
The company took the initial architectural design concept and adapted it to the location. “We have a lot of experience with regard to not only structural, but mechanical systems and project management. The original design had a drive system that incorporated friction-type wheels, similar to a carousel. But because of its location, we felt that was not a good method of driving the system just from a maintenance perspective—icing and wet conditions, and general wearing of the guide wheels and drive assemblies.
“If it was easy to just walk up a few stairs and service it, it would be one thing, but it is a 400-foot-tall spire, on top of a 1,300-foot building, so it poses a lot of challenges.”
TDK incorporated a slew bearing, basically a large gear in the center of the spire/beacon, driven by two motors through pinion gears, Trytek explains. The technology TDK incorporated is expected to extend the service life of the bearing system.
“The mirror will turn at approximately one rotation-per-minute, and the weight-bearing load is not that extreme,” he says. “The bearing has an estimated capacity for approximately 1 billion revolutions, so the chances of that having any real service issues are few and far between.”
Completion of all the work is expected by the end of April, early May, he adds. The shape of the mirror and the arrangement of the LED light systems were designed by Ballantyne-Strong, based in Omaha, Neb.
All eyes will be on New York City in the next several months as the final construction at One World Trade Center is completed. The new skyscraper, at 1,776 feet, making it one of the tallest structures in the U.S., will become part of one of the most recognizable skylines in the country.