New green UN hub to be constructed in Panama 

Mon, 28 Feb 2011

PANAMA - UNOPS is to manage the construction of a United Nations Regional Hub, designed to be one of the greenest buildings in Latin America.

The four-year construction of the hub in Panama City is expected to cost $38 million and will be funded by the Government of Panama.  It will house over 700 staff members from at least 14 UN organizations

Panama's Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Minister, Juan Carlos Varela with UNOPS Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maria Noel Vaeza
Panama's Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Minister, Juan Carlos Varela with UNOPS Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maria Noel Vaeza

The Government had proposed the creation of the new UN Latin America and Caribbean Regional Hub in 2009, in order to improve the UN’s ability to “deliver as one”.

On February 23, 2011 Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a memorandum of understanding with UNOPS for the design and construction of the hub. UNOPS will prepare the tender documents, carry out the bidding and procurement processes and provide technical supervision of the design and construction works.

Over the last year, UN agencies and the Government of Panama have been working on preliminary feasibility studies, implemented by UNOPS, to ensure that the future hub has the lowest carbon footprint possible and fosters a culture of environmental sustainability.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provided technical and financial support during the design process to incorporate the highest sustainability standards, principles and practices.

During the signing ceremony Panama’s Vice-President and Foreign Affairs Minister, Juan Carlos Varela, said: “There are two places in the world where all flags are seen, the UN Headquarters in New York and the Panama Canal; we want this building to reflect that.”

He added that UNOPS involvement will ensure the transparent, efficient and timely completion of the project.

UNOPS Regional Director for Latin America and Caribbean, Maria Noel Vaeza, thanked the Government for their support and said: “As a green building on a green site, the UN Regional Hub in Panama is the first of its kind in the world. It offers a unique opportunity for the UN to raise the bar and set an example both within and outside of the UN, achieving a major step in UN system coherence and effectiveness.”

Sustainable construction

Initial designs for the new green UN hub
Initial designs for the new green UN hub

The new hub aims to lead the way in terms of carbon neutrality, sustainability and increased UN integration and effectiveness. It is designed to be a unique model of good practices in the implementation of sustainable construction in the Latin-American region and at a global level. It is CO2 neutral, energy positive and water self-sufficient.

All the building’s energy will come from solar power and elevators and windows will be energy efficient. Automated systems will ensure efficient temperature regulation, security and lighting.

Rainwater harvesting systems will provide non-drinking water to the building and an ecological sewage treatment system will produce waste water suitable for irrigation.

Promoting ‘One UN’

The shared building is designed to foster coordination and dialogue among UN directors and staff. This provides a unique opportunity for the formation of inter-agency working groups on shared interests.

In line with this, the hub will be equipped with movable walls to increase its ability to adapt to different needs and purposes.

A Regional Emergency Operations Centre is also planned, with 24-hour crisis monitoring and response support.  Designs also include a regional UN Information Centre that would serve the general public as well as UN regional and country offices.

The hub will consist of 17,500m² of surface for office space and common services, such as an auditorium, cafeteria, restaurant, day care facility, library, gym, travel agency and bank.

The hub will host the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Pan American Health Organization-World Health Organization, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environmental Programme, the United Nations Population Fund, the UN Human Settlements Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, UN International Strategy for Disaster Response, UNOPS, UN Women and the World Food Programme. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Food and Agricultural Organization also expressed a strong interest in participating.