Canadian Consulting Engineer

UN Headquarters being renovated

November 7, 2008
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

In New York City, the iconic UN Headquarters Building is about to undergo a major overhaul. All the HVAC systems in...

In New York City, the iconic UN Headquarters Building is about to undergo a major overhaul. All the HVAC systems in the 1950-52 building are to be replace, along with other changes to bring the ageing facilities up to code and to make it operate more sustainably.
The building’s HVAC systems are estimated to be 20 years past their useful life. The remedial work also means dealing with asbestos. Currently, the UN spends $19 million a year on maintenance, not counting maintenance staff salaries. The planned updates are to improve the building’s energy consumption by 44%.
All 6,000 employees will be displaced while the construction work goes on. About 2,800 will be relocated to other leased office space in Manhattan and Long Island. Meanwhile, a temporary conference venue is already being built on the site’s North Lawn to house the General Assembly and the office of Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon and senior UN managers during the renovations.
The total project, called the “Capital Master Plan,” is expected to cost $1.9 billion, and will be funded by the members states. Plans call for it to be completed by 2013.
Built on a 17-acre site overlooking the East River at First Avenue and East 42nd Street, the campus includes six buildings, totalling 2.6 million square feet. The site is considered international territory.
At first the UN planned to renovate the 38-storey Secretariat tower in four stages, 10 floors at a time, but instead decided to accelerate the schedule, move everyone out, and renovate the entire building in one phase. The sweeping low-rise General Assembly building will also be renovated in one phase. U.S. architect Michael Adlerstein devised the Capital Master Plan.The United Nations came into being following the end of World War II. After New York was decided as the location for its headquarters, a multinational board of designers was appointed. However, the final design was by two of the 20th century’s most famous architects: Le Corbusier of France and Switzerland, and Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil. The overseeing lead architect was Wallace Harrison. The land was donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (At one point, Niagara Falls, Ontario was proposed as a potential site for the headquarters.)
The UN decided that the building has such historical importance it would not be appropriate to demolish it, so has decided on the overhaul instead.


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