Form-Based Codes

Law, Planning
  • What Are Form-Based Codes?

“Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. They are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law. Form-based codes offer a powerful alternative to conventional zoning.” – FBCI

“Form-based codes place a primary emphasis on building type, dimensions, parking location and façade features, and less emphasis on uses. They stress the appearance of the streetscape, or public realm, over long lists  of different use types. ” – Local Govenment Commission

Form-based codes were developed to overcome the problem of sprawl, which is created by use-based codes.

Smart Code is one kind of Form-Based Codes. It combines zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, and basic architectural standards into one compact document.

  • Elements of Form-Based Codes: 

commonly including:

• Regulating Plan. A plan or map of the regulated area designating the locations where different building form standards apply, based on clear community intentions regarding the physical character of the area being coded.

• Public Space Standards. Specifications for the elements within the public realm (e.g., sidewalks, travel lanes, on-street parking, street trees, street furniture, etc.).

• Building Form Standards. Regulations controlling the configuration, features, and functions of buildings that define and shape the public realm.

• Administration. A clearly defined application and project review process.

• Definitions. A glossary to ensure the precise use of technical terms.

may also include:

• Architectural Standards. Regulations controlling external architectural materials and quality.

• Landscaping Standards. Regulations controlling landscape design and plant materials on private property as they impact public spaces (e.g. regulations about parking lot screening and shading, maintaining sight lines, ensuring unobstructed pedestrian movement, etc.).

• Signage Standards. Regulations controlling allowable signage sizes, materials, illumination, and placement.

• Environmental Resource Standards. Regulations controlling issues such as storm water drainage and infiltration, development on slopes, tree protection, solar access, etc.

• Annotation. Text and illustrations explaining the intentions of specific code provisions.

For more information about Form-Based Codes, please visit: FBCI


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