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Dispute over antenna could cost One World Trade Center title of tallest building in US

Think One World Trade Center is poised to become the tallest building in America? Think again.

A dispute is shaping up over whether to enclose the building's antenna in a protective shell, and the decision could make the difference in securing a spot in the record books for the gleaming 104-story building at Ground Zero.

One World Trade Center, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, already is classified as the tallest building in New York City after reached 1,271 feet on April 30 to eclipse the Empire State Building. When it is completed, the new building's spire is to reach a symbolic height of 1,776 feet, putting it above Chicago's Willis Tower as the nation's tallest.

But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and developer Douglas Durst intend to drop a plan to enclose the 408-foot antenna, a move that would save about $20 million and save the hassle of maintaining the shell, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Not everyone is happy with the change.

"Eliminating this integral part of the building's design and leaving exposed antenna and equipment is unfortunate," lead designer David Childs said in a statement quoted by the Journal. "We stand ready to work with the Port on an alternate design."

And when sizing up the country's tallest buildings, the people who keep records on such things typically count spires toward overall height but not antennas, which could put the official height at only 1,368 feet. That could cause problems with One World Trade Center's claim as tallest, though the developers insist the top of the building will still count as a spire.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has yet to rule on the matter.

Experts and architects have long disagreed about where to stop measuring super-tall buildings outfitted with masts, spires and antennas that extend far above the roof.

Consider the case of the Empire State Building: Measured from the sidewalk to the tip of its needle-like antenna, the granddaddy of all super-tall skyscrapers actually stands 1,454 feet high.

Purists, though, say antennas shouldn't count when determining building height. An antenna, they say, is more like furniture than a piece of architecture.

Unlike antennas, record-keepers like spires. It's a tradition that harkens back to a time when the tallest buildings in many European cities were cathedrals. Groups like the Council on Tall Buildings, and Emporis, a building data provider in Germany, both count spires when measuring the total height of a building, even if that spire happens to look exactly like an antenna.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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