27 July 2007
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


Alicia Bárcena, Under-Secretary-General for Management, hailed this morning’s signing of Skanska USA for the pre-construction management of the long-awaited renovation of United Nations Headquarters as a major step towards making the building a safer, healthier, more secure and energy-efficient place for staff, delegations and visitors.

Briefing correspondents at a Headquarters press conference, Ms. Bárcena noted Skanska’s extensive experience in public-private partnerships, saying the company was an active participant in the United Nations Global Compact of businesses supporting responsible globalization.  She also introduced Michael Adlerstein, a prominent architect appointed earlier this month as Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, the overall name for the renovation project.

She stressed that the rigorous process leading to Skanska’s selection had involved technical, contractual and commercial valuation by both independent industry experts and in-house officials.  As part of the process, the United Nations Ethics Office had performed due diligence on the company’s worldwide operations.  During the pre-construction phase, Skanska would review the current design drawings and look for cost-saving opportunities.  The company would then provide detailed cost estimates in light of current market conditions and projected future cost increases.

While the pre-construction phase was priced at $7 million, the construction phase was worth a potential $1 billion, she estimated.

The first actual work is projected to begin next year, with the construction of temporary quarters for the General Assembly on the North Lawn.  The Assembly is expected to meet there from 2009 to 2011 while its chamber is renovated.  At the same time, the Secretariat will be renovated in four phases, with staff temporarily housed in Manhattan and Long Island City locations.

Ms. Bárcena said the result would be a building that was in compliance with all current building codes and high standards of efficiency and environmental sustainability.  Even before the start of major renovation, management was working with the New York City Fire Department to ensure compliance with current fire security laws as soon as possible.

Mr. Adlerstein, whose renovation portfolio includes Ellis Island and the Taj Mahal, was asked why he had accepted the position, given the resignation last year of his predecessor, Louis Frederick Reuter, who had cited a lack of stakeholder support.

He replied that United Nations Headquarters was one of the most significant buildings in the world, and noted that every public restoration project had its difficulties and critics.

Asked about cost-cutting opportunities, he said the largest flexible costs involved time, after which came such factors as materials and systems, which had to be reviewed.

With regard to previous estimates of cost overruns incurred by delays, he said budget management was a continuing process and, in this case, it had only been conceptual before the hiring of the construction management.  The in-depth planning would now be done with Skanska to produce a more realistic estimate.

Ms. Bárcena, asked about her hopes for the renovation, said she hoped United Nations Headquarters would be a role model for environmentally sustainable structures, adding: “I’d like to bring it in on time and on budget.”

* *** *

For information media • not an official record