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Ban Ki-moon proposes expediting Headquarters renovation project

Ban Ki-moon proposes expediting Headquarters renovation project

Citing the need to make up for lost time and move ahead with renovating the United Nations Headquarters complex in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a revised strategy that is “less risky, less expensive and faster” in the long run than the current seven-year, $1.9 billion plan.

“The schedule has slipped,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest progress report on the UN Capital Master Plan (CMP), noting a slowdown in the project owing to planning and scheduling delays, as well as the loss of leadership following the resignation last year of the project’s Executive Director.

But the Secretary-General adds that although there have been delays, “steps are being taken to accelerate the project and bring it in line with the schedule and budget” approved by the 192-member General Assembly – known as “strategy IV.”

Over the past year, the Assembly approved the financing of the plan and Skanska USA Buildings was selected as pre-construction manager. In addition, renowned United States architect Michael Adlerstein was appointed to lead the project as the new Executive Director.

Following these developments, “to recapture lost time and to expedite the project, the Office of the Capital Master Plan has developed a plan to accelerate the approved strategy IV,” Mr. Ban states.

“Accelerated strategy IV” would reduce the time needed during the renovation by reducing the total number of phases needed to refurbish the Secretariat and Conference Buildings, and speed up the construction of a temporary Conference Building.

It proposes the construction of the temporary Conference Building on the North Lawn as planned in early 2008, but would be able to complete the entire renovation by mid-2013 rather than mid-2016 as envisioned under the current strategy.

By this timetable, renovation of the Secretariat building would be completed in three years instead of six, starting early in 2009; the General Assembly building in two years instead of two and a half; and the Conference building in two years instead of three.

“The most appropriate way to execute the project would be to conduct the Secretariat renovation in one phase and execute the work in the Conference and General Assembly Buildings in single sequential phases as opposed to the three phases previously envisioned,” Mr. Ban writes.

In addition to the lease signed so far for space for 750 staff members, and the leases that are currently being negotiated, office space would need to be found for almost 1,500 other staff. The CMP office is already looking in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

Along with changes to the sequencing, logistics and phasing of the project, Mr. Ban notes that efforts are being made to find changes in the actual design that would “bring the project back within budget and to find opportunities to reduce the costs in a way that does not compromise quality or functionality,” a process known as “value engineering.”

He adds that the projected cost of the renovation is estimated to be nearly $2.1 billion as of September, which is almost $220 million above the amount authorized by the General Assembly. “Most of the additional projected cost increases are due to the slippage of the schedule. Consequently, the impact of inflation on construction and rental costs has been exacerbated.”

The renovations under the CMP are expected to make the main UN Headquarters buildings – which have not been significantly improved or maintained since they were constructed in 1949 and 1950 – more energy efficient and eliminate safety and health risks.