Form-Based Development Codes

Zoning Practice — May 2004

By David Rouse, FAICP, Nancy Zobl


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New development codes are emerging that focus on regulating physical form as an alternative to conventional Euclidean zoning. Prescriptive approaches seek to codify the physical parameters of development based upon a normative position on ideal urban form. Contextual approaches, on the other hand, look to the characteristics of the surrounding environment for guidance in regulating the physical form of new development.

Collectively, these approaches are referred to as form-based development codes. A basic premise of form-based development codes is that the regulation of physical form (not use) is the key to producing a better built environment.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses an emerging trend toward zoning codes that focus on regulating physical form as an alternative to conventional Euclidean zoning.


Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2004
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American Planning Association

About the Authors

David Rouse, FAICP
David Rouse, FAICP, ASLA is a consultant, educator, and author with over 40 years of experience in urban and regional planning and design. From 2013 to 2019, he served as Managing Director of Research and Advisory Services for APA, where he supervised programs and initiatives such as Green Communities, Planning and Community Health, the Sustaining Places Comprehensive Plan Standards, and Planning for Autonomous Vehicles. Prior to joining APA David was a principal at the planning and design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd in Philadelphia, where many of his projects received professional awards for excellence. David's areas of expertise include comprehensive planning, green infrastructure, and planning for emerging technologies. With Rocky Piro, he co-authored The Comprehensive Plan: Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Communities for the 21st Century, published in 2022 by Routledge Press.

Nancy Zobl