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UN’s historic office in Geneva will be refurbished and greened

Published on 07/02/2009

Geneva -- The United Nations is taking the first steps towards a large renovation plan for its historic office in Geneva, which will include large energy-saving measures.

The oldest part of the complex, known as the Palais des Nations, was the original home of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the current United Nations. It is 80 years old.

Electric and water lines as well as windows and other parts of the building were in dire needs of replacement or repairs, said Sergei Ondzhonikidze, the director of the UN Geneva office on Friday.

"The materials originally used were not durable and are disintegrating,” he said. “This causes excessive fuel and electricity conception," which is taxing, both monetarily and environmentally, he added.

The renovations would be an initial investment to save costs and lower the building’s carbon footprint, he told reporters.

Michael Adlerstein, in charge of the ongoing renovations at the UN’s main headquarters in New York, said the historical importance of the building would be maintained throughout the renovation process and the offices would continue to function while the work went on.

"It’s like restoring a train while in motion," Adlerstein said.

The renovations would also include upgrading security at the complex.

It is estimated that the renovations in New York will be completed in 2013 at a cost of about 1.87 billion dollars.

"In New York, we will achieve a 44 per cent reduction in energy consumption at the completion of the project,” said Adlerstein. “Similar results may be achieved in Geneva."

The plan, as announced Friday, will start with an initial study, funded by Switzerland, to see what needs to be done. Based on that research and other studies, the UN will eventually announce the full scope of the project and begin to raise the funds to carry out the work.

Actual work on the building will not start until the New York project is complete.

Member states of the UN will be heavily involved in the process and will have to approve all costs, Ondzhonikidze said.

The League of Nations, dismantled fully following World War II, had at its peak in the 1930s when there were 58 members. This number dropped as Europe changed in the later part of that decade and the early 1940s. The UN, which came into existence in 1945, currently boasts 192 member states.