There aren’t any garbage trucks in Songdo, South Korea. Instead, trash is sucked through pneumatic pipes to a central sorting facility—in seconds—where it’s either recycled or turned into energy. Without a fleet of diesel trucks on neighborhood streets, Songdo has a lower carbon footprint.
It’s one of several ways that the area—a massive new development about the size of downtown Boston, built from scratch over the last several years—was designed to be more sustainable than a typical city like nearby Seoul. Compared to a city the same size, Songdo emits a third less greenhouse gases.
“Our vision from a design-build standpoint was, let’s start with the expectation of sustainability and efficiency,” says Tom Murcott, executive vice president of Gale International, the developer that led the master planning of the $35 billion urban development, built on reclaimed land along the Yellow Sea.
The whole area was designed so people might never have to drive. “A big goal of ours was to get people out of cars,” Murcott says. In a study, the team found that if people had to walk more than 12 minutes to a destination, they drive. So the developers put public transit stops within 12 minutes of every apartment building or business. Everyday errands can be accomplished on foot.
“For those who do drive,” writes Co.Exist‘s Adele Peters, “the development offers car sharing and gives priority parking to electric cars. Parking is underground, so cars don’t add to the urban heat island effect in the summer, and so there’s more space for pedestrians at street level.” By 2020, the city will also be recycling 40% of the water it uses. Planning for Songdo took only 3 years and the city should be complete by 2020, and as planning and building get faster, we could see more cities like it in the very near future.