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South Korea’s ‘Green Urbanism’ - Songdo IBD


Remarkable Vision

Songdo IBD is a pedestrian city - the furthest residential districts are only a thirty-minute amble from the centre. All blocks are designed to connect pedestrians to open space, walking/biking corridors, and public gathering areas. Songdo IBD is located within the Incheon Free Economic Zone. This new metropolis will be connected to the Incheon International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, by a 7.4 mile highway bridge, and linked by subway to Seoul and its surrounding suburbs.

It is being developed by New York-based real estate developer Gale International in a joint venture with Korea’s POSCO E&C. In fact, Songdo’s backers, which include Gale, Morgan Stanley and Korean steelmaker Posco, are betting the city can become a northeast Asian trade hub, linking nearby Shanghai and Tokyo.

Furthermore, Songdo IBD will also feature a first-rate system of public transportation and green transportation schemes comprising buses, subways (with connections to Seoul and Incheon City), and water taxis zipping along the city’s seawater canals, as well as extensive bike ways and electric-car rentals. Preferential parking spaces will be available for low-emissions vehicles.

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The Songdo International Business District, “The Gateway to Northeast Asia,” will be the first new city in the world designed and planned as an international business district.

The Grand Master Plan

Long-term sustainability and the minimisation of the city’s carbon footprint have been considered in every design and engineering decision by master-plan architect Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates PC, and chief engineers Arup and Cosentini Associates.

Songdo IBD officially opened in August 2009, as the first “new” city in the world designed and planned as an international business district. With its more than 40% green space, including a $220 million park, the city is designed to feel as airy as Vancouver. It offers every conceivable amenity including a world-class hospital, an international preparatory school, a 100-acre Central Park, a 1.1 million square foot premium retail mall and a championship 18-hole golf course, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. 


Green Urbanism


One of the explicit goals of Gale International is to create an elegant urban environment with a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to a standard baseline Korean or US design. In addition, Songdo IBD is master-planned for 40% green space – a much higher percentage than nearly any other Asian urban centre.

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Songdo IBD is master-planned for 40% green space – a much higher percentage than nearly any other Asian urban centre.

By its very design, Songdo IBD will be an environmental standout not only in Asia, where many urban areas are in a state of ecological crisis, but the world. The city is using as one sustainability framework the evolving LEED for Neighbourhood Development certification, for which Songdo IBD was recently selected as a pilot project and partner by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED-ND sets standards not just for green building but also for enhancing and protecting the overall health, natural environment and quality of life of a community.

Water efficiency is a hallmark of Songdo IBD’s development. Greywater systems from larger buildings will be collected, treated, and reused for non-potable uses such as flushing, cleaning and irrigation. The lake in the 100-acre Central Park and the canal system will use sea water, not fresh water, thus saving immeasurably on potable water supplies. The canals are powered by wind turbines and the entire body of water is refreshed every 24 hours.

Songdo IBD will be a model of the best of what is possible today as well as being able to grow and adapt to the environmental challenges of the future.

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