What is a Form-Based Code?

Example of a Form-Based CodeExample of a Form-Based Code applied to a mixed-use structure Form-based zoning codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public space by using physical form (rather than separation of functions) as the organizing principle. They are regulations, not mere guidelines, and are adopted into law.

Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented both in words and clearly drawn diagrams, along with other visual aids. They are linked to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale, and therefore, character of development.

This approach contrasts with conventional zoning's focus on the segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through uncoordinated restrictions (e.g., dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic levels), to the neglect of an integrated form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory. Ultimately, a form-based zoning code is a tool.

For more information, please visit the Form-Based Codes Institute and the Center for Applied Transect Studies.

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