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Codes: Form-Based

Form-Based Codes:
The end of zoning as we know it??

Jeff Schommer & Peter Harmutuck, CharretteCenter
Minneapolis, MN
February, 2005

What are form-based codes? Below are five definitions.

""A form-based code is one that envisions and encourages a certain physical outcome -- the form of the region, community, block, and/or building. The code may or may not include illustrations as part of its technical format.

Form-based codes are a different type from conventional codes that are based primarily on use, process, performance or statistics -- none of which envision or require any particular physical outcome."
-- Placemakers on the SmartCode Listserv

"For the purposes of the Zoning Ordinance, a 'form-based code' means:

'a code based primarily on 'form' – urban form, including the relationship of buildings to each other, to streets and to open spaces – rather than based primarily on land use.'"
-- City of Palo Alto, CA Context Based Design Document.

"A form-based code is a land development regulatory tool that places primary emphasis on the physical form of the built environment with the end goal of producing a specific type of 'place'."
-- Definition from the City of Farmers Branch, TX

"The new codes, (Peter Katz) says, focus less on what's forbidden and more on what's desired--the kind of town or city that people indicate they want."
-- Neal Peirce, ZONING: READY TO BE REFORMED? Washington Post Writers Group.

"'Design is more important than use' embodies the underlying philosophy behind the Form-Based Code (Ferrell & Madden, 2002). Form-Based Codes represent multi-disciplinary codes that connect the design of circulation and public space networks to the design of building form (Altman, et al, 2003). A community’s physical form—namely, its buildings, streets, and public spaces—signifies its most defining characteristic (Dover, 2003) as they shape the public realm (Katz & Ferrell, 2003). Asserting more control over a community’s form could lead to improvements in the way the community functions (Ferrell & Madden, 2002). This increased control includes the fostering of pedestrian-friendly mixed-use developments, and a range of housing types."
-- Jason T. Burdette, Form-Based Codes: A Cure for the Cancer Called Euclidean Zoning?

"Paul Crawford, FAICP, of Crawford Multari & Clark presented the following principles for form-based codes:
  • Work from a defining spatial pattern, such as the Transect or a system of neighborhoods, districts, and corridors
  • De-emphasize land use in favor of building form and typology
  • Emphasize mixed uses and mixed use housing
  • Focus on the streetscape and the public realm
  • Conduct a design-focused public participation process"

-- Megan Lewis, AICP Form-Based Zoning report from 2004 APA conference.
TMP Collection:
Links: Organizations Promoting Form-Based Codes

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Links: Cities that implemented Form-Based Codes

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Form-Based Code FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about form-based codes at the Farmers Branch, TX website.

TMP Link:
Article: Form-Based Codes: Implementing Smart Growth
Local Government Commission

TMP Link:
Neal Peirce of the Washington Post

Neal Peirce, a journalist with the Washington Post, has written a few articles about form-based codes and their application in the Washington DC metro area.

TMP Link:
Context Based Frontage Code

New Town or Old Town... You want to implement your community vision while encouraging and guiding high quality development. The highly graphic context based frontage code guides development by descriptive parameters of what you can do - instead of what you cannot do.

Date: September 2003
TMP Link:

Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company has teamed with Placemakers to present the SmartCode. Developed during the planning and construction of many of the most innovative and respected New Urban communities in the country, the SmartCode incorporates the varied and complex elements of human settlement patterns within the logical structure of the Transect.

Email: | Phone : 612.823.1966 | CharretteCenter Inc | 3346 Hennepin Av Ste 200 | Minneapolis, MN 55408

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