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Preparations being finalized as UN set to begin renovation, says project chief

Preparations being finalized as UN set to begin renovation, says project chief

With the accelerated plan for the renovation of the United Nations Headquarters complex approved by the General Assembly last week, the world body is set to embark on an ambitious five-year overhaul that will result in a sustainable, modern, safe and efficient facility, the UN official overseeing the project said today.

Under the nearly $1.9 billion plan, the time need to complete the renovation has been reduced from seven years to five, thereby lowering the risk of construction complications and delays, as well as disruptions to the work of the Organization.

The entire renovation will also take place in one phase, during which staff in the Secretariat building will be relocated to alternative sites known as “swing spaces.”

“Our plan is to provide easily accessible swing spaces so that the ongoing work and meeting schedules of the Organization will be least disrupted during the renovation,” Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the project – known officially as the Capital Master Plan (CMP) – told reporters.

Mr. Adlerstein said that arrangements are being finalized for swing space locations on 46th Street between First and Second Avenues, in Long Island City and midtown Manhattan. At the same time, over 2,000 people will remain on the UN compound, moving into swing spaces inserted into the Temporary North Lawn Conference Building, the Secretariat basements, the South Annex and the Library building.

The “first large-scale visible indication” that the CMP is under way will be the ground breaking for the construction of the North Lawn Conference Building – expected to begin by June 2008 – which will be the temporary home of the Assembly and the Security Council and provide all conference facilities for UN meetings during the renovation. It will also house the staff of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.

Mr. Adlerstein noted that the type of renovation work, and the level of change in the finished spaces, will vary. In the “historically important” areas of the complex, delicate removal of historic materials will be followed by the installation of new heating, cooling, security, fire protection, information technology and broadcast systems. In other areas, “full demolition and reconstruction is the more appropriate and cost-efficient approach.”

One of the main goals of the overhaul is to make the UN complex “a model of environmentally sustainable construction,” said Mr. Adlerstein, noting that a range of “greening” measures will result in, among other things, cutting overall energy consumption by at least 40 per cent.

The UN complex receives some 400,000 visitors every year, making it one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York City. This concern is also being addressed, Mr. Adlerstein noted, stating that “we’re assuming that we will always have the ability to receive visitors.” However, access to some points will be restricted during the renovation.

He also assured the UN press corps that “we will have a home for you,” although the exact location has yet to be determined.