Press Conference by Executive Director of United Nations Capital Master Plan

30 November 2009

Press Conference by Executive Director of United Nations Capital Master Plan

30 November 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Executive Director of United Nations Capital Master Plan

During a press conference today to update reporters on the upcoming multi-year renovation of United Nation Headquarters in New York City, Assistant Secretary-General Michael Adlerstein said about 3,300 people had been moved out of the Secretariat Building and that the temporary North Lawn building would be ready for occupancy by the end of December.

Mr. Adlerstein, the Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, told correspondents that he was confident that the estimated $90 million budget overage would evaporate by the time most construction was completed in late 2013.  The adoption of the accelerated construction strategy had helped cut the overrun, estimated at $219 million two years ago.  The complex renovation project of the 59-year old Headquarterssiteis estimated at $1.876 billion.  The renovation project remained on schedule for completion by late 2013.

The North Lawn building would be completed within two weeks and the testing of the building systems -– such as heating, ventilation, lighting, security, simultaneous translation services and fire safety -– would be conducted, he said. The press stakeout area would be among the areas located on the first floor of that critical swing space, while the Office of the General Assembly President would be housed on the second floor.  The Secretary-General’s Executive Office would be on the third floor.  The building would house 270 occupants, he said.

In response to a reporter’s question, he said that the $140 million North Lawn building was temporary and would be dismantled once the renovation project was completed.  The cost of dismantling had been budgeted, and while the interior walls would be demolished, the more expensive exterior walls were recyclable and could be taken apart and sold.

Construction of the new primary data centre was continuing in the basement of the Secretariat Building.  The shifting of the remaining staff should be completed by the end of March 2010.  “Then the renovation will go into high gear,” he added.

Work in the Conference Building would begin early in 2010 to prepare a two-year home for the Security Council. He expected the Security Council would be relocated to its new home in Conference Rooms 4, 5, 6 and 7 by mid-March or April. It was decided to house the Council chambers here in the main building for security concerns, he said. Also, more money would have to be spent to construct a larger North Lawn building to accommodate the Council chambers.

The renovated building will be more energy efficient as energy consumption would decline by 50 per cent, the complex’s carbon footprint would drop by 45 per cent, and water consumption headed downward by 40 per cent.

He expected the media to move to their temporary space in the Library on 11 December.  He hoped all media could be moved at the same time.  In response to a reporter’s question, he said there was no guarantee that media members would secure exactly the same space as before the renovation.  Nobody was guaranteed the exact same space, except for the Secretary-General.

Responding to another question, he said the shifting of the data centre to a secondary location in the basement was very important to ensure that all employees’ computers and portable communications devices functioned smoothly. Machinery and software had to be transferred, and many old software programmes were not backed up well, he noted.

He acknowledged that the move would be disruptive, no matter how it was approached. The shuttle between Headquarters and the swing space at Madison Avenue would help reduce walking time for employees.  The renovation of the Secretariat Building was a three-year portion of the renovation project.  The United Nations had been using swing space for 20 years as some functions were already housed in rental buildings.  “We have a sense of what the inconveniences will be,” he said.

Work on the Conference Building should be completed at the end of 2011, he said.  It would then take a few months to reorganize the North Lawn building to house the General Assembly functions.  The renovation of the General Assembly building would then begin and take slightly less than two years and be completed by the end of 2013.  The Assembly would function in its present space for another year to year-and-a-half.  Guided tours would be going on during that time.  The Assembly building and others would look the same as before.

He said the glass walls of the Secretariat Building would be the same bluish-green colour as the glass installed in 1952.  The glass now had a film on it.  The new glass would be more energy efficient and durable, both to blasts and the usual wear and tear.

He acknowledged that there were always risks to a multi-year project, such as a disruption in the availability of construction commodities like steel, concrete or copper wiring, which could impact prices.  An accident could set a project back.  But he said Skanska was running a safe construction site and was ahead of safety records.  “The project becomes much more simple the day everyone moves out”, Mr. Adlerstein said, adding that the project then became a standard high-rise construction project.

In response to a question on the risks stemming from asbestos in the building, he said the hazards from asbestos were well understood and asbestos removal would be completed under established procedures.  He noted that people who had become sick from asbestos-related industries had been working in the industry or for companies that produced asbestos-laden products.  He did not know of any recorded cases in the United States in which a person had become ill with cancer, or any other disease, stemming from asbestos removal.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.