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Is a connected city, a green city? The rise of Songdo, Korea.

April 18, 2010

photo via flickr user

The largest private LEED development in the world is underway. Songdo, Korea is being developed as an International Business District, a metropolis planned as an eco-friendly gateway to the rest of Asia. Located on the Yellow Sea it will be linked to Soeoul’s Inchoen airport by a highway bridge and accessible from Seoul by subway. It will be a city within a 3.5 hour radius (by flight) from an astounding 33% of the world’s population.

The project, designed by Kohn Pederson Fox and developed by Gale International and Posco E&C is aiming for completion in 2014-2015. It is part of a pilot project for LEED-ND (neighborhood development) with over 120 buildings seeking LEED certification. It will be a smart, connected community. Computers will be built-in to every home, street and office. It will be a model city for connectivity, technology and communications. Watch this video to learn more about the incredible advancements that will connect the IBD with everything else in the world:

The design will also incorporate some of the world’s most cherished urban features. Songdo will look to Paris for its boulevards, to New York for a park similar to Central Park and Venice for its system of seawater canals. It will be home to roughly 65,000 residents as well as commercial projects, retail, hotels and civic and cultural facilities. It is also building a Jack Nicklaus Gold club, a championship golf course.

Check out more about the city via this video:

So what does all this mean for the environment? Well, designing a city from the ground up offers and incredible opportunity to implement some of the greenest technologies. Is Songdo taking advantage of that opportunity? I’m still debating.

a rendering of the Jack Nicklaus golf club, via

Songdo will be 40% green space, though I am unclear whether that includes the golf course. I mean, let’s face it, golf courses are one of the most water-intensive landscapes we can build. They are the opposite of sustainable. But 40% is an impressive number and that open space should help with stormwater runoff and heat island effect.

Many of the buildings will be LEED certified . . . great, right? Yes! But . . . then, even if you’re recycling many of your construction materials and using low-VOC flooring and paints, you’re still adding to the total waste accumulation.

Though, as cynical as I can be, there are some qualities that I think are great. Even the most distant residential areas will be no farther than 30 minutes walking distance to the center of the city. Water taxis will use the canal systems, while bike and walking routes will be given ample space and consideration. Public spaces will encourage community interactions and a life less isolated than integrated.

So, I guess what I’m asking you dear readers, is how green do you think this city will be? As we design new “eco-cities” from the ground up, is there something you think should be included?

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