KOREA IN KUWAIT

Kuwait 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: SOUTH SAAD AL-ABDULLAH CITY

South Korea is exporting its experience in smart city building to construct Kuwait's first eco-friendly residential city and alleviate the burden of the housing shortage.

With Kuwait facing a medium-term shortage of housing, the government has promised to build 120,000 housing units per annum over the next decade, with several new smart cities planned. Most of these projects are standard neighborhoods and towns that will blend seamlessly into the Kuwaiti urban landscape, such as the South Al Mutlaa project, housing 400,000 residents and costing USD1 billion. But amongst all of the new developments, South Saad Al-Abdullah City stands out. It will be the first environmentally smart city in the Middle East, unique in its approach of merging smart technologies and classic urbanization with an ecological twist, with building planned to start in 2019.

The city, planned to lay 40km west of central Kuwait City, should cost USD4 billion to design and build. It will cover an area of roughly 60sqkm, housing 400,000 people in 30,000 units. It is the result of collaboration between state-owned Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) and the Kuwaiti Public Authority for Housing Welfare (PAHW). Collaboration extends higher at the governmental level: the Kuwaiti Ministry of State for Housing Affairs and the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport signed an MoU to develop the new city. LH will execute a feasibility analysis and plan the project, construction and financial investors will be invited to take part around 2018, and in 2019 LH and PAHW will establish a joint company for the design, construction, and operation of the city. More Korean firms could take part in the construction phase, while a consortium including POCSCO A&C and Hyundai Architects and Engineers Associates Co. will participate in the planning phase.
While details on the city remain scarce, the adjective “smart" has been applied because of the interconnection of all roads and services via an internet network. Under the assumption that every resident will own a smartphone, this will make services easier to dispense. The use of big data and the Internet of Things will also enhance convenience. As for the ecological aspect, the environmentally friendly city will purportedly use solar cells for clean energy production and colors to avoid visual pollution, although it has not yet been made clear how else environmentally conscious technologies will be involved.
The Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport defined the project as the “first export of a smart city project," and is hoping that the project in Kuwait could open up other opportunities in the region. Indeed, South Korea has strong experience, particularly with its home-grown smart city of Bundang, and the project is drawing more Korean businesses to Kuwait. LH is also working on similar projects elsewhere. The corporation's plans to build a smart city, New Kalyan, in Maharashtra, India, were recently approved. The smart city will be built some 30km east of Mumbai, and, while much more modest than the South Saad Al-Abdullah project, it underscores the greater strategy of the Korean government to export its smart city expertise.
The Kuwaiti government announced that it would buy the unsold land and houses after completion of the project, making it more economically viable; furthermore, there will be government-level cooperation for “new city" policies and knowledge transfer over the medium term as Kuwait continues to do battle with its housing shortage.
Moving forward, another option for Kuwait is allowing the private sector to play a more important role in construction and land investment. And indeed, utilizing Korean expertise in building revolutionary cities alongside the strong and experienced Kuwaiti construction community might prove a winning formula.