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Form-Based Codes 101: Introduction
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Form-Based Codes 101: Introduction

Form-Based Codes 101: Introduction

75 min

This course is approved for 1.25 AICP CM credits


In this course we will define form-based codes, explain why they were invented, and distinguish them from conventional "use-based" zoning ordinances—all with an emphasis on place-making and walkability (i.e., physical form and character). We will provide an overview of the development of form-based codes, their mandatory and optional component parts, and the importance of making form-based codes context or place-specific. The course also describes a range of contexts for the use of form-based codes and concludes with some common misconceptions about form-based codes and some common mistakes in their preparation or use.

At the end of this course, you will understand how form-based codes shape community growth and character and whether form-based codes are an appropriate tool for regulating development in your community.

Completion of all of the courses in this FBC 101 sequence is a prerequisite to taking FBCI's two-day onsite advanced courses, FBC 201 (Urban Design and Placemaking with Form-Based Codes) and FBC 301 (Formulating, Adopting, and Administering Form-Based Codes), which lead to a certificate of completion from FBCI. More information on these courses is available on FBCI's website,

In This Course

  1. Mary Madden introduces the Form-Based Codes Institute and the eight-part "Form-Based Codes 101" series.
  2. Why Form-Based Codes?
    This chapter provides a brief history of human development patterns. Why were form-based codes invented? What's wrong with the current system? Why are local communities choosing form-based codes?
  3. What Are Form-Based Codes?
    This chapter defines form-based codes and how they differ from conventional zoning. The chapter also explains how form-based codes are context-specific, with an emphasis on place-making, not prepared in the abstract.
  4. Components
    This chapter describes the elements of form-based codes, including regulating plans, building form, and public realms. It also discusses "optional" elements, such as street and block standards and frontage and building types.
  5. Diverse Applications
    This chapter highlights the wide range of contexts in which form-based codes are used today, laying the foundation for the case studies that will be presented in following courses.
  6. Common Misconceptions
    This chapter responds to many of the common criticisms of form-based codes. The approach is to respond to each criticism by stating the facts and options available and then exposing how conventional zoning deals with the same topic or concern.
  7. Common Mistakes
    This chapter highlights some of the common mistakes in preparing and administering form-based codes.

Published 2015