Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A sustainable, and LEED possible, 9/11 Memorial.

The [9/11] Museum will be about each of us, about what it means to be a human being, and what it means to live in a complex, global community at the start of the 21st century. It will, we hope, be a place for understanding ourselves and the world in which we live, a place for promising the kind of world we want to bequeath of our children and grandchildren.

Alice M. Greenwald 
Executive Vice President for Programs 
Director, 9/11 Memorial Museum 

I know I’m a little late to the party, but this is news/information I have to pass on. I am sure you, the ever attentive reader, have already been informed of the new 9/11 Memorial and its glories; but the sustainability aspects of the Memorial deserves some dwelling – please excuse my philosophical babel. Since Ms. Greenwald asked that we reflect on the significance of the 9/11 Memorial, a place where we can stare into the waterfalls and make promises for the “kind of world we want to bequeath of our children and grandchildren”, I intent to imagine what this world is like for the sake of my children, your children, our children’s children.

First, there are empty promises and there are promises we must keep – I hope we know the difference here. A few days ago I wrote about my frustration with the public outcry against a Muslim architect and the irrational focus on lives lost and the attack we, as Americans, suffered. In these momentary insane moments, I feared that we have lost sight of the meaning of remembering 9/11 – remembering a world of complex and diverse opinions and demographics. There will always be those who are different from us; if we cannot accept that fact and accept that they too are human beings capable of compassion and tolerance, I fear that we will never reach the mentality necessary to sustain our civil discourse. We would always resort to war and atrocities to figure out who is right and wrong, and whose religion is better.

Hence, we have 9/11.

But my opinionating recently took a positive shift. I want to focus on the success of the 9/11 Memorial and its future now. I leave the pondering about the Muslim designer to your imagination. I only ask that you not dwell on the negative and try to focus on what we must do as a people of one planet to move our civilization forward.

The new 9/11 Memorial, as I come to learn, is seeking LEED Gold certification. It also meets the environment-conscious New York State Executive Order 11 (PDF) and the WTC Sustainable Design Guidelines. 

The Memorial offers the view of two reflecting pools in the footprint of the Twin Towers; mirroring two waterfalls into reflecting pools, designed as water-conserving irrigations system to save energy and resources. In addition, there are bronze panels inscribed with the names of those who died on September 11th and the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, surrounding the two 60-foot deep pools -- described as "large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence."

There are more than 400 swamp white oak trees planted creating a green roof for the museum, the train station and other facilities 70-feet below street level.

These trees were harvested from within a 500-mile radius of the World Trade Center site, with some from locations in Pennsylvania and near Washington, D.C.-- areas also impacted on September 11th. Growing to different heights and up to 60-feet, the trees are reminders that they are living individuals . . . . The selection of these durable deciduous trees are meant to represent the renewal of life in their natural cycles, from full foliage to turning various colors in autumn to leafless in winter. 
Roberta Cruger, treehugger.com

There is also a suspended paving system supporting the trees with soil-filled troughs and pavement for walking. There is also a new structure, in place of the fallen towers, designed to generate off-peak electricity and composts paper waste onsite.

Despite the drama with our intolerance and bigotry, I'd say I am at least as proud about the Memorial as I can be. I hope your children and mine will grow old under the trees and will stare into the reflecting waterfalls, remembering the fallen ones, and ask:

"why did we hate each other so much that we must resort to violence to resolve our misunderstandings?"

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