A great number of construction, remodeling or redevelopment projects take place in Seoul, potentially posing risks to urban environment. As a preventative measure, Seoul adopted the Environmental Impact Assessment System to minimize environmental degradation.
Institutional Improvements for Cleaner Seoul
The existing assessment system created by the central government applies a one-size-fits-all approach to all large-scale construction projects. Such a uniform regulation cannot possibly prevent factors that can harm urban environment, especially in big cities like Seoul where redevelopment, remodeling of high-rise buildings occasionally take place.
Seoul Proposes a Region-Specific Assessment Standard to the Central Government
Seoul saw the need to complement the current law with an additional provision that stipulates that even if a construction project is not subject to an environmental impact assessment, given regional characteristics and circumstance, the project may be required to undergo such an evaluation. Seoul’s proposal was taken by the central government which soon amended the Act on Environmental Impact (March 7, 1997) along with its enforcement ordinances (September 8, 1997), allowing municipalities the ground to mandate the assessment system as it sees fit.
The system analyzes and forecasts the economic feasibility, technical requirement as well as environmental impact of a particular project. In addition, because the system also compares various alternatives for reducing negative environmental impact, it is a viable tool that helps project operators find the most effective solutions.
Systematic and Professional Assessment
Environmental Impact Assessment Deliberation Council
Established pursuant to Seoul’s Ordinance on Environmental Impact Assessment (amended in 2002), the Deliberation Council is composed of a chairperson and 60 experts from academia and research community. One team is composed of 15 members, and a majority is required for a meeting to take place while consent of the majority is required for decision making.
The Environmental Impact Evaluation applies 11 areas in 26 businesses, including buildings over 100,000m2 gross area and redevelopment or remodeling projects involving less than 90,000~300,000m2 of land. There are 20 categories in 6 divisions for assessment, including air quality, water quality, and natural ecology quality.
Three-Step Process Involving the Public
The Assessment is conducted in 3 phases: proposal, draft, and final report. In the first phrase, the construction operator must first determine categories for the assessment such as air, weather and water quality. The surrounding environment of the construction site must also be taken into consideration in this process. In the second phrase, the construction operator must write up a draft that includes what kind of impact its construction work would have on the surrounding environment.
The operator should also include possible solutions that can reduce any negative impact on environment in the draft. The draft should then be shared and circulated to the public, and the operator is obliged to hold discussions and presentations for the public. In the final stage, a final report, which is the actual environmental assessment report, should be written, and it must reflect the opinions taken from the previous stage. The final report is then submitted to the Council for deliberation and final decision.
By utilizing the Environmental Assessment System, Seoul facilitates more eco-friendly constructions in large-scale development projects. Examples of green construction include installing at least 12% of renewable energy facilities, installing 70% of lights with LED lamps, among others. Seoul is also making attempts to secure green space to minimize GHG emissions and to ensure pleasant living conditions for its citizens.