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Model City to Test the New Urbanism Concept in India

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

India’s phenomenal economic growth rate – forecast to be 7.9 percent this year by the Asian Development Bank, after averaging 7.7 percent per year over the past decade – has been the force behind an expanding middle class population, now estimated at 50 million people (McKinsey). Forecasts see it swelling from 5 percent of the population to 40 percent by 2025.

India now boasts many fast-growing global companies and booming enterprise zones like the technology hub of Bangalore. But the country still comes in for heavy criticism of the way it has managed the growth of its cities. Poor planning and chaotic growth have left many cities with vast slum areas, congestion, poor hygiene and sanitation services, crumbling infrastructure and poor-quality transportation services. To more and more Indians it has become clear these factors are now serious impediments to economic growth and modernisation of the country and its economy.

With 30 percent of the population living in urban areas and cities contributing 60 percent of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of government revenues (Wall Street Journal), city-dwellers’ fate is critical to the functioning of the economy.

According to the 2001 Indian census, slums make up 25 percent of all housing, and 26 percent of urban households lack access to sanitation facilities.

And as the middle class grows and its members accumulate savings, their desire to be better housed will also grow. They will be on the hunt for new places to live to realise their dreams. Those who can satisfy this strong urge will be those who will also profit.

This is where the new city concept of Lavasa (www.lavasa.com) comes in. This new community sits nestled in picturesque mountains and features promenades, sidewalk cafes, and ice cream parlours, but none of the clichéd fixtures of today’s Indian cities: rickshaws, noise and pollution, poor sanitation and over-crowding. It has apartment houses in mustard, terra cotta, ochre, olive and beige. It is also going to have a medical campus, luxury hotels, boarding schools, sports academies, a golf course, a space camp, animation and film studios, software-development companies, biotech labs and law and architectural companies. A thoroughly ‘knowledge economy’ mix that India’s aspiring classes wish to see the country embrace for its future development.

The people behind Lavasa see it as a new model of governance and urban development for India in the 21st century.

Lavasa is located in Western Ghats, 200 kilometres southeast of Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, and 65 kilometres west of Pune, a centre for software programming and computer animation.

Lavasa’s colourful and detailed website boasts it as a “private hill city being developed by Lavasa Corporation Limited where people can live, work, learn and play in harmony with nature.” It’s billed as “an inclusive city, based on the principles of New Urbanism.”

The master plan is to house more than 300,000 people divided in to five linked towns.

The first town, Dasve, will be completed in 2011. Its houses are selling well and are almost sold out, according to its developers.

Lavasa is the concept of Ajit Gulabchand, chairman of Hindustan Construction Company, an Indian company with extensive experience building bridges and dams.

The development is located in the remote hills along the Varasgaon Lake, a reservoir providing water to Pune. Lavasa Hill City covers “25,000 acres with 60 Kms of lakefront” according to its website. The land had originally been designated for holiday homes, but this seemed too small an aspiration.
Lavasa will be governed by a private corporation. It is also being planned according to the principles of New Urbanism (www.newurbanism.org) – a belief in cities built around walkability not cars, where business and residential sit side-by-side, with mixed income housing and lots of green space for parks.

The corporation will take responsibility for providing all major utilities: running water, electricity, sewage treatment, garbage collection and fibre optic connections.

This thoroughly modern approach has startled prospective buyers of homes, puzzled there weren’t water tanks on the roofs and septic tanks for each house: something they had come to expect with current Indian cities.

The Lavasa Corporation has hired an American city administrator, Scot Wrighton, to run the new city.

He told The Atlantic magazine that Lavasa offered him “a chance to build a new governance model for a country where governance at the municipal level does not work.”

The project seeks to exploit a portion of Maharashtra state law that lets corporations assume many of the responsibilities normally provided by, or in the domain of, the state. These do not include police powers or the ability to raise taxes but take in pretty much everything else.

Lavasa has private security guards to watch over its residents and funds itself through home sales, renting, and business deals. The prices for apartments in the development range between US $17,000 and US $36,000. While cheap by Western standards, this is still expensive to middle class Indians.

The project has come in for criticism for being just for the wealthy and being a pipe dream in chaotic India.

In response to criticism, Gulabchand is introducing cheaper apartments targeting young professionals and starter homes that he claims will rent for US $11 a month. This far lower monthly rent could make the development affordable for more people, including domestic servants and laborers.

Gulabchand admitted the plan was not without risks. “We’re worried we’ll still get slums,” he said. “Do we have all the answers yet? No. It is still an experiment, okay?”

As for charges the development doesn’t look much like the ‘real’ India, Gulabchand says: “Why should we look to the past? India is a young society.”

But Gulabchand doesn’t think India has the time to waste pondering these aesthetic questions: the country has a desperate need for better quality living conditions.

“We may not get a perfect Singapore-style model city,” he told The Atlantic. “But this is a model for a more vibrant, inclusive, greener place that still has soul.”

Resources

1) New documentary Urbanized gives a passionate over-view of the challenges facing the rapidly urbanizing world around us. Website: http://urbanizedfilm.com/

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Global South Eco-cities Show How the Future Can Be

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The world is currently undergoing a high-stress transition on a scale not seen since the great industrial revolution that swept Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today’s urban and industrial transition involves many more people and is taking place on a greater proportion of the planet. With rapid urbanization comes a demand for middle class lifestyles, with their high-energy usage and high consumption of raw materials.

This is stretching the planet’s resources to breaking point. And as many have pointed out, if the world’s population is to continue past today’s 7 billion to reach 9 billion and beyond, new ways of living are urgently required. Radical thinking will be necessary to match the contradictory goals of raising global living standards for the world’s poor with pressured resources and environmental conditions.

But there are innovative projects already under development to build a new generation of 21st-century cities that use less energy while offering their inhabitants a modern, high quality of life. Two examples are in China and the Middle East.

Both projects are seen as a way to earn income and establish viable business models to build the eco-cities of the future. Each project is seeking to develop the expertise and intellectual capacity to build functioning eco-cities elsewhere. In the case of the Masdar City project in the United Arab Emirates, international businesses are being encouraged to set up in Masdar City and to develop technologies that can be sold to other countries and cities – in short, to create a green technology hub akin to California’s hi-technology hub ‘Silicon Valley’. Masdar City is also being built in stages as investors are found to help with funding. Both projects hope to prove there is money to be made in being green and sustainable.

The Tianjin Eco-city (tianjinecocity.gov.sg) project is a joint venture between China and Singapore to build a 30 square kilometre city to house 350,000 residents.

Tianjin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianjin) is a large industrial city southeast of China’s capital, Beijing. It is a place that wears the effects of its industrial expansion on the outside. Air pollution is significant and the city has a grimy layer of soot on most outdoor infrastructure.

China has received a fair bit of criticism for its polluted cities as the country has rapidly modernized in the past two decades. This sprint to be one of the world’s top economic powers has come at a cost to the environment. In this respect, China is not unusual or alone. Industrialization can be brutal and polluting, as Europe found out during its earlier industrial revolution.

But China is recognizing this can’t go on forever and is already piloting many initiatives to forge a more sustainable future and bring development and high living standards back in line with what the environment can handle.

Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is the second large-scale collaboration between the Chinese government and Singapore. The first was the Suzhou Industrial Park (http://www.sipac.gov.cn/english/).The Tianjin project came up in 2007 as both countries contemplated the challenges of rapid urbanization and sustainable development.

The project’s vision, according to its website, is to be “a thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient – a model for sustainable development.”

The philosophy behind the project is to find a way of living that is in harmony, with the environment, society and the economy. It is also about creating something that could be replicated elsewhere and be scaled up to a larger size.

The city is being built 40 kilometres from Tianjin centre and 150 kilometres from Beijing. It is located in the Tianjin Binhai New Area, considered one of the fastest growing places in China.

Construction is well underway and can be followed on the project’s website (http://www.tianjinecocity.gov.sg/gal.htm). It will be completed in 2020.

This year, the commercial street was completed and is ready for residents to move in.

Residents will be encouraged to avoid motorized transport and to either use public transport or people-powered transport such as bicycles and walking.

An eco-valley runs down the centre of the city and is meant to be a place for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy.

The basic building block of the Eco-city – its version of a city block – is called the Eco Cell. Each Eco Cell measures 400 metres by 400 metres, a comfortable walking distance. Four Eco Cells make a neighbourhood. Several Eco Neighbourhoods make an Eco District and there are four Eco Districts in the Eco-city. It is a structure with two ideas in mind: to keep development always on a walkable, human scale and also to provide a formula for scaling up the size of the Eco-city as the number of residents increases.

It is a logical approach and seeks to address one of the most common problems with conventional cities: sprawling and unmanageable growth that quickly loses sight of human need.

Agreement was also reached on the standards that should be achieved for a wide variety of criteria, from air and water quality to vegetation, green building standards, and how much public space there should be per person.

An ambitious project in the United Arab Emirates is trying to become both the world’s top centre for eco cities and a living research centre for renewable energy. Masdar City (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/)is planned to be a city for 40,000 people. It is billed as a high-density, pedestrian-friendly development where current and future renewable energy and clean technologies will be “marketed, researched, developed, tested and implemented.”

The city hopes to become home to hundreds of businesses, a research university and technology clusters.

This version of an eco-city is being built in three layers in the desert, 17 kilometres from the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi. The goal is to make a city with zero carbon emissions, powered entirely by renewable energy. It is an ambitious goal but there are examples in the world of cities that use significant renewable energy for their power, such as Reykjavik, Iceland in Northern Europe, which draws much of its energy from renewables and geothermal sources.

Masdar City is designed by world-famous British architect Norman Foster (fosterandpartners.com) and will be 6.5 square kilometres in size.

The design is highly innovative. The city will be erected on 6 metre high stilts to increase air circulation and reduce the heat coming from the desert floor. The city will be built on three levels or decks, to make a complete separation between transport and residential and public spaces.

The lowest deck will have a transportation system based on Personal Rapid Transport Pods. These look like insect eyes and are automated, controlled by touch screens, using magnetic sensors for propulsion. On top of this transport network will be the pedestrian streets, with businesses, shops and homes. No vehicles will be allowed there, and people will only be able to use bicycles or Segway (segway.com) people movers to get around. An overhead light railway system will run through the city centre, all the way to Abu Dhabi City.

“By layering the city, we can make the transport system super-efficient and the street level a much better experience,” Gerard Evenden, senior partner at Foster + Partners, told The Sunday Times. “There will be no car pollution, it will be safer and have more open spaces. Nobody has attempted anything like this.”

Masdar City is being built in stages as funding comes, with the goal of completion by 2016. It hopes to achieve its aspiration to be the most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly city in the world. As for water supplies in the desert, there is a plan: dew collected in the night and morning and a solar-powered desalination plant turning salt water into drinking water.

Electricity will come from a variety of sources. Solar panels will be on every roof and double as shade on alleyways. Non-organic waste will be recycled, while organic waste will be turned into fuel for power plants. Dirty water will be cleaned and then used to irrigate green spaces. Because of the design, the planners hope the city will just use a quarter of the energy of a conventional city.

To keep the city smart and the project on top of developments in renewable energy, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (http://www.masdar.ac.ae/) will specialize in renewable energy technology.

The cost for the city was pegged at US $22 billion in 2009.

The chief executive of Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s renewable-energy company – is Sultan Al Jaber. He sees the city as a beacon to show the way for the rest of the Emirate to convert from a highly inefficient consumer of energy to a pioneer in green technology.

“The problem with the renewable-energy industry is that it is too fragmented,” he told The Sunday Times. “This is where the idea for Masdar City came from. We said, ‘Let’s bring it all together within the same boundaries, like the Silicon Valley model (in California, USA).’”

The project needs to gather much of its funding as it progresses. The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (http://cdm.unfccc.int/) is helping with financing. Companies can earn carbon credits if they help fund a low-carbon scheme in the global South. The sultan is ambitious and sees this as a “blueprint for the cities of the future.” It has been able to bring on board General Electric (GE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to sponsor the university.

It is possible to visit Masdar City and take a tour (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/105/visit-masdar-city/) and it is also possible to view online what has been built so far (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/32/built-environment/).

Resources

1) Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE): Located in Texas, USA, CITE is a fully functioning city with no residents to test new technologies before they are rolled out in real cities. Website: http://www.pegasusglobalholdings.com/test-center.html

2) Digital Cities of the Future: In Digital Cities, people will arrive just in time for their public transportation as exact information is provided to their device. The Citizen-Centric Cities (CCC) is a new paradigm, allowing governments and municipalities to introduce new policies. Website: http://eit.ictlabs.eu/action-lines/digital-cities-of-the-future/

3) Eco-city Administrative Committee: Website: http://www.eco-city.gov.cn/

4) Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, Investment and Development Co., Ltd. Website: tianjineco-city.com

5) ‘The Future Build’ initiative, a new green building materials portal from Masdar City. Website: thefuturebuild.com

6) UNHABITAT: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme is the UN agency mandated to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Website: http://www.unhabitat.org

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

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Urban Farmers Gain from Waste Water

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global food crisis continues to fuel food price inflation and send many into hunger and despair. Around the world, solutions are being sought to the urgent need for more food and cheaper food. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people undernourished (FAO).

One fast-growing solution is bringing farming to urban and semi-urban spaces, where the majority of the world’s population now lives.

Urban farmers can take advantage of their close proximity to consumers, keeping costs down and profits up. They can also solve one of agriculture’s enduring problems – where to find water for irrigation by using existing waste water. Waste water is plentiful in urban environments, where factories usually pump out waste water into streams, rivers and lakes.

The amount of urban farmed agriculture is still small, about 10 percent of the world’s agricultural production, but is a potential growth area if handled well. In 53 cities surveyed by the International Water Management Institute, 1.1 million farmers – some 200 million worldwide – are now using recycled or waste water to irrigate their crops.

In Accra, Ghana, more than 200,000 people depend on food grown with wastewater. In Pakistan, a full quarter of the grown vegetables use wastewater.

The use of waste water comes with its ups and downs. While the World Health Organization rightfully points out that waste water can be a source of disease and pollution, cities also face a dilemma: diverting fresh water to irrigate crops means less for people to drink. Out of the 53 cities surveyed by the International Water Management Institute, 85 percent dumped their raw sewage and wastewater into streams and lakes. With this in mind, the WHO has altered its stance on wastewater, and now supports its use for irrigating farmland as long as all efforts are made to treat wastewater and that people are warned to thoroughly wash food before eating it.

Pay Drechsel, who heads the IWMI’s research division based in Accra, Ghana, studying safe and productive use of low-quality water, says sophisticated systems to use waste water have developed in Vietnam, China and India, “where this practice has been going on for centuries.”

“People know how to avoid health risks, like thorough cooking of vegetables,” he said. “In Vietnam and China, waste from households (fecal waste, solid waste and wastewater from household use) have always been effectively recycled in ‘closed systems’ at a household level where the waste/nutrients are recycled into the food chain and so return for human consumption.”

Drechsel cites examples like Calcutta, where a large wetland is being used for treating and recycling wastewater for beneficial uses such as fish farming. In Northern Ghana, fecal sludge from septic tanks is spread on fields that are later used to grow cereals.

“The risk for the consumer is extremely low, a waste product is productively recycled, the farmer has a good harvest and the city gets rid of their waste,” Drechsel said. “A multiple win-win situation.

“Depending on the local situations such models can be widely used, provided they are documented and the risk factors are controlled,” he added.

Farmers use various methods to reduce the risk of contamination, including drip irrigation where the water does not touch the crop.

The risks for both farmers and consumer can be managed with the right protocols. For farmers, Drechsel recommends wearing of rubber boots and careful hand washing to avoid skin diseases. He points out that these farmers usually make more money than those who do not use waste water, and thus can afford the extra cost of precautionary measures, like de-worming tablets. They can quickly get out of poverty by using this water.

For consumers, the risk is from diarrhoea, typhus or cholera if raw food is eaten unwashed or poorly washed. The best solution is to turn to the WHO’s guidelines and proven local practices and tested techniques developed by researchers.

“Here more awareness creation on invisible risks through pathogens is needed. Perception studies in West Africa showed that nearly all households wash vegetables but they target visible dirt. Thus, the methods used are not effective. Best would be therefore a combination of risk reducing interventions from farm to fork, as none alone is 100 percent efficient. This is also what the new WHO guidelines promote: a flexible approach, reducing in each country the health risks as far as it is possible and feasible.”

Drechsel sees an opportunity for water treatment plants to seize: “What is missing so far is a ‘design for reuse.’ If treatment plants would be designed to serve farmers they could be less sophisticated and easier to maintain. Farmers could be involved in this, maybe a win-win situation.

“The environment benefits too. Spreading wastewater over fields, and allowing it to leach back through the soil into local waterways, turns out to be a reasonable way to purify it. The process filters out all the organic contaminants, and much of the nitrogen and phosphates that would otherwise contribute to algal blooms and dead zones further downstream. It is certainly preferable to dumping wastewater straight into the nearest big river or lake.”

Resources

  • Vertical farming, where hothouses are piled one on top of the other, is an option being promoted as a solution to the food needs of urban dwellers.
    Website: http://www.verticalfarm.com/
  • Extensive photographs of vertical farm project concepts by Chris Jacobs in cooperation with the grandfather of skyscraper farm concepts: Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University. His ideal: all-in-one eco-towers would actually produce more energy, water (via condensation/purification) and food than their occupants would consume. His mission: to gather architects, engineers, economists and urban planners to develop a sustainable and high-tech wonder of ecological engineering.
    Website: weburbanist.com
  • Urban Gardening News, a news service providing a review of daily news targeting everyone involved in planning & practicing alternative farming in cities. Great updates on how things are progressing across the South.
    Website: http://www.urbanagriculture-news.com

Follow @SouthSouth1

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New Cities Offering Solutions for Growing Urban Populations

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, new cities are being dreamed up by architects, city planners and governments, or are already under construction. Two new urban areas being built offer lessons for others in the global South. They both deploy intelligent solutions to the combined demands of urbanization, growing populations and rising expectations.

An eco city in China and a smart city in the Republic of Korea are tackling today’s – and tomorrow’s – challenges.

A joint initiative between China and Singapore, the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project (tianjinecocity.gov.sg) – located on reclaimed land some 45 kilometres from the booming Chinese city of Tianjin and 150 kilometres from Beijing – is an attempt to create a replicable model for other cities in China and the global South. Already well underway, with the first phase of construction nearly complete, the Eco-City’s hallmarks include encouraging walking, reducing reliance on private vehicles and aiming to generate 20 per cent of the city’s energy from renewable sources. It is run from the Chinese end by Tianjin TEDA Investment Holding Co., Ltd and in Singapore by the Keppel Group.

It is located 10 kilometres from the Tianjin Economic Technological Development Area (TEDA), a fast-growing high-tech business hub in its own right.

Called an “integrated work, live, play and learn environment,” it is a mix of public and private housing based on the highly successful model developed in Singapore.

The concept of an “eco city” was first raised by Richard Register in his 1987 book Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future. It was to be a place that minimizes inputs of energy, water, and food and outputs of waste heat, air pollution, carbon dioxide, methane and water pollution. Like smart cities, eco cities are taking shape in various forms around the world. Some are applying the concept and principles of an eco city to an existing place, while others are being built from scratch.

The Tianjin Eco-City is a mix of elements designed to make it sustainable in the long-term. It includes an “EcoValley” running through the development as its centrepiece green space to encourage walking and cycling between the major centres of the city. It has the usual urban services – from schools to shops and restaurants – but also, critically, a growing range of business parks to support employment.

Unlike green initiatives in wealthy, developed countries, it is hoped the Tianjin Eco-City will prove a more relevant model for the global South. It has factored in the need to make an eco city pay its way and generate new business and innovations. It is trying to address the pressing urgency of China’s growing population and rapid urbanization, while balancing people’s expectations of rising living standards. As in other countries in the global South, people aspire to a higher standard of living and this needs to be taken into consideration when planning eco cities.

Ho Tong Yen, Chief Executive Officer of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, says its aim is “sustainable development packaged in a way that is uniquely Asian.”

He says the project is intended to be “practical, replicable and scalable.”

“Practical at its core is building something that the market can support, something that is affordable given the economic development of the region,” he said. “The idea is that this model must be one that is replicable and scalable in other parts of China. Now, strictly speaking, there is no reason it needs to be just for China – it really might be replicable in other developing countries as well. Our starting point, however, is to find a model that might work for China.

“I think it is still a work in progress – a bold experiment – and it is a long-term experiment. The idea is to create an eco city that can support a population of 350,000 over a 10 to 15 year horizon.

“In some ways it is a city that does not look all that much different from other Chinese cities. But if you look at the subtleties – the building orientation, the renewable energy, the transit oriented developments, the walkability concepts – these are all the elements we built into this project.

“An eco city is not necessarily a science-fiction-like concept; it is something that is very real, very do-able. It looks a lot like a normal city – it is not a special city in a glass dome.”

The explosion in information technologies in the past decade has re-shaped the way cities can be planned, run and developed. The connectivity brought about by now-ubiquitous electronic devices such as mobile phones and the ever-expanding information networks connected by fibre optic cables is giving rise to so-called “smart cities.” These urban areas draw on information technologies to use resources more efficiently and reduce waste, while – it is hoped – better serving the needs of residents. Real-time information can be gleaned to monitor energy use, or traffic congestion, or crime, while constant online connectivity enables the efficient delivery of a multitude of services to residents.

Smart cities vary in their scope and ambition. Some are existing urban areas given a modern upgrade, while others, such as the Songdo International Business District (IBD) (songdoibd.com) smart city in the Republic of Korea, are planned and built from scratch.

Built on 1,500 acres (607 hectares) of reclaimed land from the Yellow Sea in Incheon, Songdo International Business District is being built by Gale International and POSCO E&C of Korea. It is considered one of the largest public/private real estate ventures in the world. Due to be completed in 2017, it will be home to 65,000 people (22,000 currently live there), while 300,000 people will commute in daily to work. Fifteen years in the making and costing over US $35 billion, it is called a “synergistic city” because it contains all the elements necessary for people to live a high-quality life.

Currently 50 percent complete, Songdo IBD is considered one of Asia’s largest green developments and a world leader in meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) (https://new.usgbc.org/leed) standards for green buildings. For example, it has the first LEED-certified hotel in Korea, the Sheraton Incheon. These high green standards have led to the United Nations Green Climate Fund Secretariat establishing its headquarters in Songdo, with a slated opening in 2013.

Songdo is “smart” because information technology connects all its systems – residences, buildings, offices, schools, hospitals, hospitality and retail outlets. This includes more than 10,000 Cisco TelePresence units (http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps7060/index.html)– menu-driven video screens – being installed in the residences to connect them to all the services available in Songdo.

It also benefits from proximity to IncheonInternationalAirport – consistently voted one of the best in the world – giving residents quick access to other Asian cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong. This connection between urban development and a highly connected airport is being called an “aerotropolis.”

Songdo smart city is just one part of a massive regional development plan, using reclaimed land from the sea and marshlands. The residential and business developments are all being linked to IncheonInternationalAirport, which is being positioned as a transport hub and gateway to Northeast Asia – it boasts of being a three-and-a-half hour flight to one-third of the world’s population. The idea is to create a thriving international business hub that is a short flight away from Asia’s booming and fast-growing economic centres.

“The beauty is you are doing everything from scratch – you are using newer building technology, newer systems,” said Scott Summers, Vice President of Foreign Investment for developers Gale International Korea LLC.

“You are not going into a city and ripping up old things and then put in new systems. You have a greater opportunity to install this technology, the backbone (information technology from Cisco), to allow these services and connectivity to work properly because you are laying wires in buildings from the get-go rather than going in afterwards.”

Summers believes it is the high-tech component of Songdo that will set it apart from other cities in the future. Songdo is being built with a combination of innovative sustainable development technologies and the latest in information technologies provided by Cisco.

“That is one of the reasons we are pushing this technology, because it is how a city operates that is important,” Summers said.

“The operation of a city, to do it well, is going to improve the success of it. (To) embed into the development of the city some of the technologies of sustainable development – to put in the pneumatic waste system, grey water system, the co-generation – all of those things are much easier to do on raw land.”

Sojeong Sylvia Sohn, owner of Songdo’s Kyu, a Korean fusion cuisine restaurant, was attracted to Songdo and is banking on its future growth.

Sohn said Seoul’s “existing commercial area was just saturated.”

“Songdo International City in Incheon is the future for the region and early business tenants are coming here for investment purposes. It has uncluttered streets and modern buildings, being an international city – this makes it attractive.”

Resources

1) Eco Cities World Summit: The International Ecocity Conference Series brings together the key innovators, decision makers, technologists, businesses and organizations shaping the conversation around ecological and sustainable city, town and village design, planning and development. Website: http://www.ecocityworldsummit.org/

2) Richard Florida: The Creative Class Group is a boutique advisory services firm composed of leading next-generation researchers, academics, and strategists. Website:http://www.creativeclass.com/richard_florida

3) Global Urbanist: The Global Urbanist is an online magazine reviewing urban affairs and urban development issues in cities throughout the developed and developing world. Website: http://globalurbanist.com/

4) UN-Habitat: The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Website: http://www.unhabitat.org

5) Eco-Cities: A Planning Guide by Zhifeng Yang. Website: http://tinyurl.com/d26rxdx

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