The long-anticipated $2 billion reconstruction and renovation of the United Nations’ headquarters complex appears to be on the verge of breaking ground after last Friday’s selection of Parsippany, New Jersey-based Skanska USA Building as the project’s construction manager. Skanksa should start work on the first phase of the 2.6 million square foot, seventeen acre, six building effort later this year, and continue through a series of subsequent phases until completion in 2014. Each phase will require a separate GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price) contract, which the UN will have the ability to either approve or reject. One of the early phases will involve the construction of a temporary facility (on First Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets, designed by Fumihiko Maki) for the UN’s General Assembly, while later phases contemplate renovations at the thirty-nine story modernist Secretariat Building and the Conference Center, all of which were built between 1950 and 1952 and based on Le Corbusier’s “Scheme 23A” design.
It’s unclear whether the UN has registered the project with USGBC under LEED, but regardless the renovations will proceed at the equivalent of a Silver rating. The design team, which includes Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Albany and Helpern Architects, HLW, R.A. Heintges & Associates, and Syska & Hennessy Group, all of New York City, will incorporate a variety of sustainable features in pursuit of a thirty percent reduction in energy consumption. The Secretariat Building will receive a new glass curtain wall, as well as upgraded electrical, HVAC, and water distribution systems; the design team is also considering a variety of additional green features including numerous green roofs, a graywater collection system, a green wall in the cafeteria, and remote light collectors to funnel natural light into basements and other similar building locales.
The UN renovation has the potential to be one of New York City’s highest-profile green projects to date but has been plagued with delays since it was first announced in 2000. It will be interesting- and instructive- to observe whether the sustainable design features present Skanska with any uncontemplated complications as it attempts to get this highly complex project off the ground.