3.2.1. Characteristics of FAR Bonus Categories and Implementation Frequency
A comprehensive investigation of the FAR bonus categories revealed a total of 215 implementations. Figure 6
shows the implemented incentives by frequency and magnitude of the incentives provided. According to Figure 6
, out of the nine plan elements in total, POPS, architecture, and passageways account for at least a half, indicating that they are the public facilities provided the most frequently to receive FAR bonuses. Furthermore, POPS, architectural (tower-shaped building, etc.), and passageway are both high in “implementation frequency” and “incentive quantity.” On the other hand, landscaping and recommended uses have recorded the lowest rates. The detailed characteristics of the items with high or low frequency are as follows.
A compendium of survey results showed that categories with the highest frequencies were those under “POPS”, “Architectural”, and “Pedestrian Path”, constituting a total of 55.3%. Such lopsidedness can be attributed to three main reasons. First, these categories are prerequisites that must be fulfilled as part of the general construction project. Second, they require only minimal additions and adjustments to the standard building codes. Last, considering the associated expenses and the conveniences, they are very favorable to the developers.
Although the quantitative results suggest development of open space and controlled building mass, the qualitative aspects, as well as actual public benefit impacts, are not fully warranted. As we can observe in Figure 7
, Case 11, Case 15, and Case 29 have similarly accomplished incentive items related to the location of open space, receiving a 20% FAR incentive. However, the actual open space in Case 11 is not in harmony with the surrounding urban planning facilities and has been observed to be privatized, thereby eliminating potential public benefit. Cases 15 and 29 were found to have secured a pedestrian path by using architectural boundaries. The passageway was used as a “Path to Walk”, which plays a major role in providing connection to Han River Citizen Park. However, the open space created by a FAR bonus in Case 15 is rather inadequately connected to the “Path to Walk” and provides relatively insufficient public benefit when compared to the nearby Case 29.
The second most implemented, tower-shaped buildings, received 10%~20% of the FAR bonus when constructed with less than 40% building coverage. Tower-shaped buildings are favourable to the developers because it is possible for them to gain extra FAR bonuses without any additional cost. Moreover, in the current housing market, where the preference is for tower-shaped buildings, developers will strive to fulfil this particular incentive requisite. However, the general standard for tower-shaped buildings only applies to the ratio of the base dimensions and there are no regulations concerning the landscape view and visual corridor. This leads to tower-shaped buildings that are designed in such a way that they obstruct the view badly. Figure 8
shows buildings that received a FAR bonus in the category called tower-shaped building. Although the public objective of these buildings was to secure the Visual Corridor, there was no specific guideline at the local level, resulting in a massive building complex overshadowing the beautiful scenery around. From the planning perspective, because of building coverage regulations, POPS, and tower-shaped buildings are intimately interconnected (when one of the three is planned, the other two naturally follow), the current incentive system overlaps in these categories. In other words, because the open space for tower-shaped buildings is typically first acquired through the stricter building coverage ratio regulation (building coverage ratio less than 40%), providing FAR-bonus for each category is duplicative. In reality, the areas where tower-shaped building incentives were applied, other incentive items under POPS were mostly fulfilled as well (in 15 out of 17 study areas). All four study areas that had received the FAR bonus under building coverage ratio regulation again received a FAR bonus under the POPS category, and in two study areas (Case 1 and Case 37), benefits were gained from overlapping the bonus by qualifying for all three categories. Hence, consolidating POPS acquisition from building coverage ratio regulation (40% qualification) and the tower-shaped construction requisite should be considered in order to apply FAR incentives justifiably. Redundant incentives for tower-shaped buildings not focused on visual corridor preservation or citizens’ convenience should thus be avoided.
Excluding the miscellaneous category, the lowest frequencies of incentive categories implemented were seen in landscape expenses followed by recommended usage. Landscape expenses were observed, in many cases, to overlap with other categories, such as POPS and green roofs. Furthermore, it was only seen in two of the study areas, thereby showing a lack of dispersed implementation. The study areas that did not satisfy the requisites for the recommended building usage category were found to have been planned otherwise, because the designated/recommended usage consisted of non-housing uses, such as public and cultural spaces.
Among the incentive categories in the current system of district unit plan guidelines, parking-related requisites (especially public parking) are difficult to achieve, and therefore, impractical as an incentive category.
Low frequencies are observed in above/underground passageway. This may be attributed to the limitations imposed according to different regions’ specifications. Areas in the vicinity of transit stations demonstrate this challenge. A pedestrian path connecting directly to a subway station or an aboveground passageway that connects buildings on the upper level via a sky pass produced debatable questions. Public accessibility of such a passageway is uncertain, because most passage decks are constructed to function as a direct connection to the building itself and, hence, its users are almost exclusively limited to the building occupants. Figure 9
shows the existing condition of public walkways. Case 8 is controversial because it functions as a passage directly connected to the commercial building and its public use can be disputed.
The investigation revealed that the inconsistent volume percentage criterion was also a problem. In Seoul, the criteria for current FAR mitigations are concurrently the absolute and relative standards of the early 2000s. For instance, fulfilling POPS requisites will receive a 10% FAR bonus, as well as a bonus from the construction law, wherein additional surface ratio can be awarded. In addition, similar to Case 15, Case 33 received overlapping FAR bonuses regarding specific POPS placement and again for its surface area. Case 42 also received multiple FAR bonuses for its compliance with lawful POPS and guideline requisites, as well as for developing the surface area. According to the design guideline in Figure 10
, the pedestrian road penetrates between buildings, and the location of the POPS is specified as being on the pedestrian path of the road-like circles in dotted lines. Therefore, the developer was given two kinds of incentives, for establishing pedestrian roads and installing pocket parks at designated locations. This is an example of the effect of duplication in the receipt of bonuses.
Consequently, triple the amount of the original FAR bonus at the most has been identified as unwarrantedly granted to identical requisites. This is attributed to the fact that different FAR bonus categories are operated disjointedly in each autonomous district. Furthermore, instead of the original intent of seeking public contribution through the incentive system, the bonuses are used only as a means of maximizing FAR. It can be concluded that FAR mitigation requisites for preserving and promoting public benefits has instead provided inconsistent and unjustified bonuses, without due investigation.