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Groundbreaking Kicks Off UN Renovation Scheme

Groundbreaking ceremony kicks off five-year UN renovation scheme

5 May 2008 - Shovels in hand and donning blue hard hats, members of the United Nations community, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, today broke ground for the construction of temporary conference venue at the world body's New York Headquarters, marking the beginning of a five-year, $1.9 billion overhaul of the landmark complex.

"Today, we turn the soil which the United Nations stands on to mark the rebirth, or renovation, of our Headquarters," Mr. Ban told representatives of Member States, the Host Country, staff and the private sector gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony on the North Lawn.

The construction of the temporary conference building is the first phase of the project, known as the Capital Master Plan (CMP), which aims to make the five-decade old Secretariat and adjacent buildings - plagued by leaks, safety violations and outdated systems - safer, more efficient, greener and more modern.

The Secretary-General pledged to make the complex "a model of environmental stewardship" by reducing the UN's electrical and water usage and by removing harmful materials that were used in the original construction.

"As we conduct this work, we will never lose sight of the original purpose of our founders when they erected these buildings almost 60 years ago: promoting a safer, more peaceful and more just world," Mr. Ban added.

The challenge of the renovation, said the project's director, Michael Adlerstein, is to respect the original design, while bringing its performance and safety into the 21st century. "Our opportunity is to make this complex a model of energy efficiency and sustainable design," he stated.

In March, the UN announced it had secured all necessary "swing space" for the temporary relocation of the 5,000 staff members that will be displaced during the overhaul.

ENDS

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