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Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Why did the UN need to renovate?
    • The original UN structures were opened between 1950 and 1952. These buildings had aged considerably and lacked the standards expected in a modern and safe building. Renovating the complex was 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, have been completely modernized. However, the appearance of the public spaces of the UN has been preserved. The entire complex is greener and more energy efficient, safer, more secure, better ventilated, better lighted, with a technologically up-to-date infrastructure.
  4. By how much is the UN complex expanding?
    • Not at all. The CMP is a refurbishment project.
  5. Are 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 have been consolidated or put in new locations, and the usage of space has been optimized.
  6. 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 was the sustainable strategy. The energy incorporated into the framework of the complex, the steel and concrete, stone and wood, has been 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.
  7. Why was the CMP 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 renovated the entire building in one phase. The Conference Building has been refurbished in one phase instead of two, and the General Assembly Building is also being renovated in one phase. The new strategy that was proposed by the Secretary-General provided 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 time saving also reduced the time that the normal functions of the United Nations would have been disrupted.
  8. How long does the project take to complete?
    • Completion is scheduled for late 2014.
  9. What is the projected final cost?
    • With an anticipated final cost of $2.15 billion the Capital Master Plan is just 11% over the budget approved by the General Assembly in 2006. The total budget 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 Twelfth Annual Progress Report on the Implementation of the CMP.
  10. How is the project financed?
    • Funding for the Capital Master Plan comes from the Member States. They were 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.
    • The United States of America, as Host Country, is funding additional security upgrades in the form of a non-assessed contribution of $100 million for security improvements beyond those already included in the CMP.
    • Wishing to assist the CMP beyond their assessed contribution to its budget, Austria, China, Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Qatat, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, and Turkey each supported the renovation of spaces from a list compiled bu the CMP and made donations or in-kind contributions of altogether almost $14 million.  
  11. What has the UN been 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.
  12. 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.
  13. What role does the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) play in the CMP?
  14. Where did staff and meetings go 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 first has been housing 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. In a second phase it provided temporary  or the General Assembly building during their respective renovations. .
    • Approximately 2,000 staff members required to service the operations of the compound remained on-site during the renovation. Their swing space was in the basement and other safe areas.
  15. How did the UN continue all its activities during the renovation?
    • We were not able to accommodate everything. Some activities had to be curtailed for part or all of the duration of the renovation.
  16. 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, the 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.
  17. How has office space changed?
    • 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.
    • Now there is more open, common space and less closed and hierarchically defined individual space.
  18. What about asbestos abatement? Has it been safe for UN staff?
    • There are very stringent requirements for asbestos procedures, and those have been followed by the contractors. First, the work area was sealed with plastic. Contractors were required to place fans to keep the work areas isolated and at a negative pressure so that no air particles could escape.
    • Independent testing for the presence of any asbestos fibers was occurring before, during and after the work, both within the work area and outside of it. The space was then kept evacuated for approximately 24-36 hours after the abatement wass completed.
  19. 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 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.
  20. How has parking in the UN garage been 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 have been 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.
  21. When will the temporary North Lawn Building be removed?
    • The temporary North Lawn Building will be demolished and the landscaping of the North Lawn will be restored in 2015.