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Case Study: United Nations Environment Program

Background

Conducting a green buildings review of renovation designs for the United Nations complex in New York.

Our Approach

The United Nations (UN) headquarters complex in New York City has changed little since it was designed in the 1940’s. In response to changes in building codes, security concerns, and the desire for improved energy efficiency and environmental performance, the UN has budgeted over US$1.5 billion to completely renovate the campus.  While the design, size, and shape of the buildings will remain unchanged, the renovation’s main goal is to replace outdated and deteriorated building systems, to improve security and the environmental performance of the buildings, including indoor environment, energy and other items. 

The UN also aims to improve its environmental performance by benchmarking its improvements against the standards established by the United Stated Green Building Council (USGBC) called Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED). 

The UN retained ERM to review the current design of the campus renovation to evaluate its improvements in energy efficiency and environmental performance to determine its potential status against a LEED benchmark. In addition, the UN requested that ERM provide potential “blue sky” design features that while not necessarily cost-effective, can be used to make the campus unique and provide a unique “signature” for stakeholders.

 
ERM first assembled a truly global team of diverse professionals for this project, including experts in green building design, environmental assessments, energy efficiency, and Climate Change.  The team reviewed current design information and evaluated the features against other programs.  The team then identified additional improvements in energy efficiency, water conservation, landscaping and materials usage.  ERM estimated approximate costs of the additional design features where appropriate.  ERM also researched and evaluated the application to the UN renovation of unique “blue sky” design features.

Benefits and Value

ERM issued a report to the UN containing the review of the current design of its major renovation of the Headquarters campus as applied to green building standards.  The report confirmed in detail that the current design was highly advanced in environmental performance. The report provided a list of additional features that could be incorporated.  ERM provided a number of more innovative, “blue sky” design features to make the renovation unique.

The client is currently reviewing the recommendations for possible inclusion in the final design and construction documents, and will likely incorporate many of ERM’s recommendations in the final design.

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