Welcome to Songdo, the most intelligent city in the world.
A decade ago, a barren mudflat. Today, a city of tomorrow. Upon 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of reclaimed land, Songdo is a purpose-built city with smart technologies as part of its DNA. 40 miles outside of the South Korean capital of Seoul, Songdo is the largest private real estate development in history and the price tag to-date stands at $40 billion.
Being adjacent to Seoul, a city already regarded as one of the high-tech capitals of the world, the biggest challenge for Songdo is to deliver a significantly smarter city than people are used to. However, because the district was built from scratch, developers have had the opportunity to invest heavily in technologies that have yet to debut in conventional cities.
So what does $40 billion buy?
Garbage. Lots of it. Hidden within the city’s infrastructure is the world’s most environmentally-friendly waste disposal system. There are no garbage trucks. No wheelie bins. Instead, a vast network of underground tunnels suck rubbish directly from kitchens to waste processing centres where it’s automatically sorted, deodorised and treated.
The city has been planned around a central park, modelled on New York, with waterways modelled on the canals of Venice. This open air green space adds up to 40% of the city meaning that its citizens can commute to work on foot in less than 15 minutes. And if garbage and green space isn’t enough, almost every part of Songdo has been designed with sensors to monitor temperature, energy use and traffic flow.
Elsewhere, the world’s first carbon-neutral city is being built in Abu Dhabi. The oil-rich United Arab Emirates isn’t exactly the first place you would expect to learn lessons on zero-carbon living, but the emerging eco-city of Masdar might well serve as education for the world.