UN HQ: The Carbon Case for Retrofits

Continuing Education Credits

Approved for 1 credit
Course Prices: 

To receive continuing education credits and a certificate of completion, you first need to register for the course. Upon registration, a link to the course quiz will be emailed to you. To receive credit, you must answer 7 of 10 questions correctly. The quiz can be taken multiple times.



In 2007, the United Nations initiated a multi‐year renovation of its New York City headquarters, the Capital Master Plan (CMP). The campus-wide renovation, the most extensive since the campus was built in the 1950s, meets LEED Gold criteria, with the Secretariat tower achieving LEED Platinum certification. However, the decision to retrofit rather than demolish the existing buildings arguably achieved the greatest sustainability results―avoiding waste, reusing materials, and keeping tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

To better understand the quantity of these savings, Michael Adlerstein, the Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director for the UN Capital Master Plan, led a study to assess the carbon-saving value of the structures that were retained. The results of this study not only shed light on the magnitude of the savings, but also highlight the value and urgency of building reuse and renovation in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. Join us for a discussion with Michael Adlerstein, John Amatruda and Kris Baker on the findings from this groundbreaking study.

This online course was recorded from a live event, and occasional background noises may be present. 


After this session, participants will:

  • Understand the differences between “operational” and “embodied” carbon emissions.
  • Understand how energy modeling and life cycle assessment software allows designers to predict operational and embodied carbon emissions from buildings.
  • Understand the relative impacts of new construction versus retrofit on operational and embodied carbon emissions, based on the UN HQ example.
  • Describe how building retrofit and renovation can play a significant role in reducing new carbon emissions, as compared to new construction.
Michael Adlerstein
 Assistant Secretary-General
United Nations

Michael Adlerstein serves as the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN International School. Previously, Adlerstein served as Project Director for the restoration of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and as Chief Historical Architect for the National Park Service. He has worked as a State Department consultant on preservation and planning issues for numerous projects, including the preservation of the Taj Mahal. He has been recognized for his contributions to the field of architecture with numerous awards and in 1994 was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
John Amatruda, RA, LEED Fellow, BREEAM International Assessor
Vidaris, Inc.
John Amatruda is the leader of Vidaris' Green Services department, where he specializes in environmentally-conscious building consulting and the evaluation of green materials and systems. Amatruda has worked as a consultant on over 100 LEED projects nationwide and internationally, using all variations of the LEED commercial program. Amatruda served as the sustainability consultant for the United Nations Capital Master Plan renovations in New York City and also developed the Sustainable Design Guidelines for the project.
Kris Baker, PE
Senior Sustainability Specialist
Syska Hennessey Group
Developed over nearly 20 years of industry experience, Kris Baker’s expertise consists primarily of performance-based design consulting focused on minimizing building impacts, optimizing façades, passive systems such as daylight design & natural ventilation, and maximizing the efficacy of building systems, including on-site generation. Recent high performance projects include the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse, Lower Sproul Redevelopment at UC Berkeley; Lawrence Main Library Expansion, Lawrence, KS; University of California Santa Barbara Bioengineering Building; Eskenazi Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana; United Nations Headquarters Renovation, New York City, NY; EPA Region 8 Headquarters Building, Denver, CO; and GSA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

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