form-based codes

What is Smart Growth?

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Smart buildings. Smart cities. Smart growth. What’s the meaning of all this “smart” talk? In the most basic sense, all three are associated with sustainability and social responsibility, with smart buildings and smart cities individually and collectively supporting smart growth.

So what is smart growth, and why is it important? With respect to sustainability and social responsibility, smart growth is of critical importance. In 2010, 82 percent of Americans lived in urban communities (towns and cities) and by 2050 it will be 90 percent. For the first time in history, more than half of the people on Earth live in cities, and urban populations are projected to double by mid-century. Towns and cities are responsible for approximately 65 percent of all energy used, 60 percent of all water consumed and 70 percent of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. As compared to less densely populated rural areas, urban communities offer increased potential for resolution of environmental and social problems, generate jobs and income, relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity, and with proper governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently. In essence, smart growth is about urbanization.

Enter smart growth.

The challenges presented by sustainable urban development are immense. Smart growth, an urban planning and transportation theory, values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. Utilizing growth management tools to encourage sustainable communities, combat sprawl, and strengthen urban centers through existing infrastructure, smart growth is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and many other environmental organizations, such as Smart Growth America. USGBC promotes smart growth through their LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System and the EPA’s support is focused around their EPA Smart Growth Program.

The EPA has compiled a set of best-practice examples of adopted codes and guidelines from around the U.S. that support smart growth, grouped into six categories:  Continue Reading →

Form-Based Codes – Designing the 21st Century City

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It seems fitting that we kick-off our new neighborhood design blog with a discussion on form-based codes. Form-based codes have been used for centuries (e.g., the planning of cities in ancient China and Roman town planning), but were summarily dismissed in the U.S. during the turn of the century by the adoption of zoning ordinances. Considering the continual depopulation and decay of our urban neighborhoods and increased urban sprawl, is it then important that we, collectively, discuss solutions? Most recently the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) entered the fray by releasing the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System  (LEED ND) that integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

Perhaps it may be best to analyze the information on form-based codes presented here by, first, offering arguments contesting New Urbanism. Lolita Buckner Inniss, Associate Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio gave a presentation on October 18, 2008 at the Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights titled The Façade of New Urbanism& the Form-Based Code. A few of her more salient talking points critiquing both New Urbanism and form-based codes: Continue Reading →