Songdo, South Korea began its life as tidal marshland. Now it’s leading the charge into the future of smart cities. Once home to small-scale fishing operations, Songdo comprises massive, LEED-certified buildings, an efficient garbage collection system and even an island for rabbits.
The project began in 2000, when 500 tons of sand were poured into the marshland, laying the foundation for architectural achievements like the Northeast Asian Trade Tower, a 68-story building that is now the tallest in South Korea.
While Songdo is nearing completion and the flashy, meticulously designed buildings certainly suggest an eye on the future, much of what makes Songdo impressive lies under the surface. For example, the entire city is connected by an underground network of pipes that serve to funnel garbage directly from residents’ apartments into the highly automated waste collection plant. The garbage is automatically sorted and then recycled, buried or burned for fuel. This might be Songdo’s most avant-garde integration, and only seven employees are needed to handle the entire city’s garbage.
The federal government has dedicated $80 million in new investments toward its smart city program, but that money will be spread out over 70+ cities, bringing the average to a whopping $1.1 million per city. That might sound like a lot of money (it is), but when you compare it to, for example, the average price of repaving one mile of a four-lane road ($1.25 million), it isn’t exactly breathtaking. And even if you think the SF Municipal government could do great things with more money, keep in mind that it’s the same government that allows somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 people to sleep on the streets, while dedicating $224 million to keeping them off of them.
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