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Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Why does the UN need to renovate?
    • The original UN structures were built between 1950 and 1952. These buildings have aged considerably and clearly lack the standards that are expected in a modern and safe building. Renovating the complex is the most cost-effective way of replacing aging and inefficient equipment, bringing the complex up to the same safety standards as other buildings in New York, and preventing future deterioration.
  2. What's included in the CMP?
    • Refurbishment of the UNHQ complex to replace deteriorated systems, to meet current building codes and standards for safety, security and accessibility for persons with disabilities, and to improve its environmental performance. The UNHQ complex is over 17 acres, and includes 6 buildings totaling about 2.6 million square feet.
    • The scope is described in the various reports of the Secretary General on the Capital Master Plan, which are available on this website under GA Documents.
  3. Is the CMP a complete modernization of the UN complex and everything in it?
    • The office spaces, in the Secretariat and other buildings, are being completely modernized. However, the appearance of the public spaces of the UN is being preserved. The entire complex will be greener and more energy efficient, safer, more secure, better ventilated, better lighted, with a technologically up-to-date infrastructure.
  4. By how much will the UN complex be expanding?
    • Not at all. The CMP is a refurbishment project.
  5. Will there be any new facilities as part of the CMP?
    • Yes. Two 60-person meeting rooms and one 100-person multi-purpose room within the existing General Assembly building.
    • Many other functions are being consolidated or put in new locations, so the environment will be new for an “old” function, and the usage of space will be optimized.
  6. What is the current state of the UN Headquarters buildings? How rapidly are they deteriorating?
    • The buildings not yet under renovation are safe and they are being maintained on a regular basis. The UN spends approximately $19 million a year on maintenance, plus almost $6 million on maintenance staff. However, the building systems have been running approximately 30 years longer than their expected life-cycle. Many of the parts and pieces for the mechanical and electrical systems cannot be bought anymore, so they are being adapted by our craftsmen in the basement shops in order to keep the systems running.
  7. Why not tear down the existing buildings and start over?
    • The UN complex is both an historical and architectural landmark. It is seen all over the world as a symbol of the United Nations itself and it is a rare example of the international style architecture of the 1950’s.
    • The problems that were leading to the need for a renovation are largely associated with aging building systems, not the basic construction.
    • Renovation of the complex is the sustainable strategy. The energy incorporated into the framework of the complex, the steel and concrete, stone and wood, is being recycled.
    • Demolition would have neither saved time nor money. The hazardous materials would have had to be removed first, the buildings would have had to be demolished floor by floor, and every single function would have had to find a temporary home elsewhere.
  8. Why is the CMP being implemented in an accelerated one-phase approach (Accelerated Strategy IV) instead of in phases, as previously put forth to the GA?
    • The Accelerated Strategy IV approved by General Assembly resolution 62/87 of 10 December 2007 endorsed reducing the period for the renovation of the complex from seven years to five, while retaining the original budget at $1.876 billion.
    • Instead of renovating the Secretariat Building in four phases ten floors at time, we are renovating the entire building in one phase. The Conference Building is being refurbished in one phase instead of two, and the General Assembly Building will also be renovated in one phase. The new strategy that was proposed by the Secretary-General provides many advantages to the United Nations, including reducing the risk of construction complications and delays associated with undertaking the renovation in a partially occupied Secretariat Building. The two year time saving will also reduce the time that the normal functions of the United Nations would be disrupted.
  9. How long will the project take to complete?
    • The completion is planned for 2014.
  10. Why will the project cost approximately $1.9 billion?
    • The total budget of $1,876.7 millions does not only cover the cost for construction. There is also money included for design and other consultants’ fees and management costs. There is money set aside for contingencies and for forward pricing escalation to make sure the anticipated rate of inflation in a multi-year project like this one, is factored in properly. And finally, a part of the total budget is funding for leasing and building conference and office swing space.
    • The most recent published numbers are available in the Secretary-General's Tenth Annual Progress Report on the Implementation of the CMP.
  11. How is the project being financed?
    • The initial financing for a preliminary phase (developing viable alternatives) came through special assessments to all Member States.
    • Funding for the Capital Master Plan is coming from the Member States. They are assessed using the scale for the regular 2007 budget assessments, over either a 5-year period or a one-time payment up-front. In addition, a working capital reserve fund was established to mitigate cash flow fluctuations. Should there be a need, an internationally syndicated letter of credit facility could be obtained for the duration of the construction contract, further covering temporary cash flow deficits.
  12. What is the UN doing to control costs?
    • First, providing a reasonable budget plan as a starting point;
    • Second, requiring complete coordinated design documents and good investigation of existing conditions;
    • Third, through open and competitive bidding;
    • Fourth, controlling the scope – not allowing the project to be stretched into anything more than its original intent of barebones infrastructure and safety work;
    • Fifth, the solid commitment of the highest levels of UN management, strong project leadership and real world design and construction expertise.
  13. Who audits the project?
    • OIOS has two full time dedicated internal auditors on the project. All internal audit reports to the General Assembly can be found on this website under GA Documents.
    • The UN Board of Audit provides a full annual audit by an external government audit agency, augmented by interim audits. All external audit reports to the general Assembly can be found on this website under GA Documents.
  14. What role does the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) play in the CMP?
  15. Is the UN looking for any philanthropy to help pay for the Capital Master Plan Project? Is the UN currently in touch with anyone?
    • As per the General Assembly’s direction, efforts are underway to secure financial resources from the public and private sector.
  16. Has the CMP considered any offer from another country to relocate staff out of the U.S. if it is cost-effective?
    • Informal offers have been made by other countries – there is always an opportunity and certainly it is conceivable that some functions could be offloaded to other headquarters. However, there are no concrete plans being considered in the context of the Capital Master Plan.
  17. Where are staff and meetings going under the Accelerated Strategy IV?
    • We emptied the Secretariat Building completely. Approximately 3,000 employees moved to swing space offsite. Office space was leased for them in two locations in Midtown Manhattan. 250 employees moved to Long Island City.
    • A temporary North Lawn Building is houseing the Secretary-General and his office, the President of the General-Assembly, some senior UN managers, as well as the functions of the Conference Building or the General Assembly building during their respective renovations. .
    • Approximately 2,000 staff members required to service the operations of the compound are remaining on-site during the renovation. Their swing space is in the basement and other safe areas.
  18. How is the UN continuing all its activities during the renovation?
    • We are not able to accommodate everything. Some activities have to be curtailed for part or all of the duration of the renovation. Detailed planning is continuing and is fine-tuned all the way through the renovation.
  19. Wasn’t the Secretariat Building (a) much more crowded than it was originally intended to be or (b) grossly inefficient?
    • Neither. The Secretariat Building occupancy was about average for a high-rise building, and the current density was close to the original plans.
    • However, before the renovation the space was not used consistently or most efficiently. Some areas were overcrowded through informal "doubling up". Multiple levels of office standards made it hard to make floor plan changes. There was also a lack of sufficient common space.
  20. How is office space changing?
    • New office space guidelines allow for the allocation of office space in a rational, simple and streamlined way. The new guidelines are providing for more flexibility in space use and make team work easier.
    • There is more open, common space and less closed and hierarchically defined individual space.
    • For a link to the presentation outlining the new space guidelines, look on the CMP website under  “Planning Documents”.
  21. When staff and meetings relocated to swing space, were they provided as much space as they had before?
    • The new office space guidelines were applied as much as possible in designing the office swing space, but it was not possible to completely implement the new guidelines in the swing space.
  22. Are the swing space offices safe and secure?
    • Yes, they are. In all of the 3  swing space  leases that the UN has signed, the landlord was required to deliver the space free of hazardous materials and the landlord has the continued responsibility to ensure that the leased space is in compliance with all laws with respect to safety of occupants. The UN monitored and verified this to ensure that the space was safe before staff moved in. With respect to security, DSS is fully engaged in ensuring all the swing spaces meet their security requirements. If you have any specific concerns to bring to our attention, please email us at cmp-ny@un.org and you will receive a reply as soon as possible.
  23. How can there be a Capital Master Plan project without buying new furniture?
    • Some new furniture will be purchased in parallel with the CMP, but much of the existing furniture will be re-used: it is either in good condition or can easily be restored.
  24. What about asbestos abatement? Is it safe for UN staff?
    • There are very stringent requirements for asbestos procedures, and those are being followed by the contractors. First, the work area will be sealed with plastic. Contractors are required to place fans to keep the work areas isolated and at a negative pressure so that no air particles can escape.
    • Independent testing for the presence of any asbestos fibers is occurring before, during and after the work, both within the work area and outside of it. The space is then kept evacuated for approximately 24-36 hours after the abatement is completed.
    • For further information and more details, please go to the CMP website under “About CMP – Reference”.
  25. How are the occupants of the UNHQ kept isolated from construction?
    • Occupied areas are isolated from construction areas with physical barriers. In addition, the air supply and return systems of the occupied space is isolated from the construction areas. Air quality will is being monitored throughout the project in accordance with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other prevailing industry standards. Skanska, the CMP construction manager, appointed a dedicated Environmental Health and Safety Officer to the project to oversee the construction process.
    • Separate routes have been developed so that no one who is not a member of the construction team is able to walk through a construction zone.
  26. How is parking in the UN garage affected by the renovation?
    • Occasionally there are temporary parking restrictions in parts of the garage during the renovation, but the garage remains open.
    • A number of parking spaces will be lost due to security and safety considerations, but the total number of parking spaces is expected to remain above the number of spaces used on an average day.
  27. How is the North Lawn being used during construction and renovation?
    • The North Lawn area is being utilized for the temporary North Lawn Building to hold meetings.
    • It is also storage and staging area for the construction contractors.