The Codes Study is a collaborative effort led by Hazel Borys, Emily Talen, and Matthew Lambert, and contributed to by many public and private planners, tracking the prevalence of form-based codes worldwide. As of February 2017, we’ve tracked 654 codes that meet criteria established by the Form-Based Codes Institute (FBCI), as well as an additional 16 form-based guidelines. 387 of these are adopted, with others in progress. Even though form-based codes are 36 years old, 88% have been adopted since 2003.
Why form-based codes? Because our current laws tend to separate where we live from where we work, learn, and shop, and insist on big, fast roads to connect them all. Roads that are unfriendly to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit. As a result, North Americans spend more hours in their cars than anyone on earth, and a growing number of communities are working to do something about it.
Cities and towns are using form-based codes to reverse these trends. Big city adopters include Miami, Nashville, Buffalo, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Denver, Albuquerque, El Paso, Memphis, Baltimore, Tulsa, Portland, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Calgary, Abu Dhabi, Dammam. And because the unit of urban design is the neighborhood, form-based codes have also been applied to as small as 100-person populations and 35 acres.
It’s a tremendous shift in business as usual, reflecting proactive, locally-driven efforts around the world to improve quality-of-life and become more economically competitive. And like any organically-emerging sea change, access to up-to-date information — what other communities are doing and how they’re doing it — is what keeps things moving.
That’s what The Codes Study is all about.
The Codes Study tracks SmartCodes, other Transect-based codes, and other form-based codes that meet FBCI criteria:
- Is the code’s focus primarily on regulating urban form and less on land use?
- Is the code regulatory rather than advisory?
- Does the code emphasize standards and parameters for form with predictable physical outcomes (build-to lines, frontage type requirements, etc.) rather than relying on numerical parameters (FAR, density, etc.) whose outcomes are impossible to predict?
- Does the code require private buildings to shape public space through the use of building form standards with specific requirements for building placement?
- Does the code promote and/or conserve an interconnected street network and pedestrian-scaled blocks?
- Are regulations and standards keyed to specific locations on a regulating plan?
- Are the diagrams in the code unambiguous, clearly labeled, and accurate in their presentation of spatial configurations?
The Codes Study also tracks major initiatives and guidelines that may assist in the formulation of form-based codes. While these may not meet FBCI criteria and do not count toward numbers of SCs, TBCs, and FBCs, they are listed as FB Guidelines.