US subsidiary of Swedish firm to manage preconstruction phase of UN complex renovation

US subsidiary of Swedish firm to manage preconstruction phase of UN complex renovation

The United Nations today signed a contract with the United States subsidiary of a Swedish firm which will oversee the preconstruction stage of the seven-year, $1.9 billion refurbishment of the world body's New York Headquarters.

Skanska USA Buildings "was selected in a competitive bidding process involving an extensive technical, contractual and commercial evaluation by the United Nations and independent outside senior industry experts," Alica Barcena Ibarra, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, said at a press briefing.

Renovations under the UN Capital Master Plan are expected to make the main UN Headquarters buildings more energy efficient and eliminate safety and health risks.

"The signing of this agreement is a major step in making the UN Headquarters a safer and healthier, more secure and more energy efficient place for all of us who work here," including UN staff, diplomats, journalists and the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit every year, Ms. Barcena noted.

Characterizing the contract wit Skanska as "one of the most complex contracts ever to be negotiated in the UN," she expressed confidence that all necessary measures were taken to protect the world body's interests.

During the preconstruction phase, Skanska will assess existing design drawings, seek out potential means to save costs and provide detailed cost estimates. After being given the guaranteed maximum price for construction, the UN will come to a decision on awarding the final construction management agreement for the project.

"This will be an enormous project that will touch every one of us who work in this building for many years to come," the Under-Secretary-General noted, adding that it will be "both a headache and a blessing."

She also stressed the importance of safety, with several steps to bolster safety already having been taken, including improving signs throughout UN Headquarters, installing additional emergency lighting, replacing sprinkler heads on the existing sprinkler system and having fire guards patrolling the Secretariat building, among others.

Ms. Barcena said she has been working closely with the New York City Fire Department and Marjorie Tiven, the city's Commissioner for the UN, to improve the safety of New York's first responders who would come to the aid of Headquarters in an emergency.

Introducing the new Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, Michael Adlerstein of the United States, to the media, she said his expertise will be a "tremendous asset" to the project. Mr. Adlerstein, who will assume his new role on 30 July, has worked on renovation projects ranging from the New York Botanical Garden to Ellis Island to the Taj Mahal.

"I start next Monday with optimism and enthusiasm that we can execute this project within budget and on schedule," he said.