Smart Code Corner

As RPC professionals visit and work within your communities, they may discuss smart codes or form-based codes. The concepts of smart codes or form-based codes are an emerging trend throughout the nation and here in Alabama. What are they and how would they work in your community?  Smart Code Corner will be a recurring section of your Connections newsletter. RPC staff will compile monthly articles on smart code and formed-based code. Our goal is providing you information to help you understand smart code and formed-based code. With an understanding of the concepts, you can determine how these tools may help you shape your community.

What is smart code or form-based code?
Form-based codes have developed over several decades. The SmartCode is a model form-based code originally developed by the preeminent architectural firm Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Co., to guide the development of the Florida resort town of Seaside. Form-based codes regulate land development with more emphasis on controlling urban form and less emphasis on controlling land uses. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in both diagrams and words. Form-based codes are always accompanied by a regulating plan. Most of us have in place a zoning code that is know as Euclidean zoning. Conventional Euclidean zoning regulates land development with the most emphasis on controlling land use. Form-based code does concentrate on the form of the built environment and not exclusively on the use.

SmartCode is a formed-based code. SmartCode moves beyond regulating only the form of a specific piece of land and instead further regulates how a singular form fits into the larger context of a region, this concept is know as the transect. The transect recognizes that development fits within the context of the region not just the individual site. SmartCode brings the transect and form-based code together. It folds zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, public works standards, and basic architectural controls into one compact document. It is a unified ordinance, spanning scales from region to community to building. Ultimately, a form-based code is a tool; the quality of development outcomes is dependent on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements.

One Response to “Smart Code Corner”

  1. Townbuilder March 7, 2009 6:29 am

    Andres Duany (, the principal author of the SmartCode, and PlaceMakers ( will conduct an intensive two day seminar on the SmartCode in Atlanta on April 17th and 18th.
    You can review the agenda at:
    You can find out more about the SmartCode and form based coding at and