Sustainable Business District Thrives in South Korea0

Kathlyn Clore | Thu Nov 10 2011 |

The South Korean government wants you to stop running errands.

Well, maybe not you—unless you’re one of the 20,000 new residents of the Songdo International Business District, a planned city center being built on 1,500 acres of land reclaimed from a Yellow Sea floodplain.

“We’re hoping to transform how people lead their lives, and not only from a technology hardware perspective,” says Tom Murcott, Executive Vice President for Global Foreign Investment at Gale International, the lead developer of Songdo.

To help reach this goal, networking giant Cisco recently invested $47 million into Songdo and is currently outfitting the city with its Smart+Connected Community technologies—a suite of cloud-based data-management and video conferencing services that enable people to fully control their residential environment.

Many citizen services will be controlled via the Smart+Connected technologies.

“Instead of going to the DMV to renew your drivers license, you can do it via telepresence,” Murcott says. “Why get in your car and crowd the already busy streets?”

High-speed underground rail is easily accessible in Songdo, as are 25 meters of bike paths. Parking lots are located underground and offer electric charging stations. Spots are reserved for low-emission vehicles as well as carpool vehicles.

An anomaly in Asia, this planned urban center has a 100-acre central park lush with native plants. The park also boasts a 1.2-kilometer saltwater canal, reducing dependence on potable water. And LEDs light the way in every traffic light, conference room, and kitchen.

A 20-minute bus ride from Incheon International Airport, the city is one of the most visible outcomes of policy tools luring private sector investment.

President Lee Myung-bak has committed to spending two percent of his country’s GDP on green growth between 2009 and 2013, which is twice the amount suggested by the UNEP.

The Songdo IBD was initiated by the Korean government and led by Gale International and Korean steelmaker Posco. Under construction since 2005, the private development is now 40 percent complete, boasting 385 retail shops and 25,000 workers.

Gale, Posco, and Cisco are already applying lessons learned in Songdo to master plans they’ve pitched to other cities, including Meixi Lake in China’s Hunan Province.

Illustration by Gavin Potenza