The SmartCode

Urban Regulations, Architectural Standards and The SmartCode

In conjunction with developing master plans for mixed-use communities, a significant aspect of DPZ’s work involves its innovative use of planning regulations and codes. Both broad-based (such as the SmartCode) and project-specific (such as DPZ’s Urban and Architectural Regulations), these codes make projects more successful and ease their implementation.

The SmartCode in particular is an integrated land development ordinance into which zoning, subdivision regulations, urban design, public works standards and basic architectural controls are integrated into one comprehensive and streamlined document. As a unified ordinance, it effectively spans and coordinates the regional, city, neighborhood, and building scales of development. The SmartCode enables the implementation of a community’s vision by coding the specific outcomes desired in particular places. It allows for distinctly different approaches in different areas within the community, unlike a one-size-fits-all conventional code. To this end, it is meant to be locally customized, or calibrated, to suit the local development context and conditions. This gives the SmartCode unusual political power, as it permits buy-in from stakeholders, while producing walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods with transportation options, conservation of open lands, local character, housing diversity and vibrant downtowns.

Conversely, the SmartCode prevents sprawl development, automobile dependency, loss of open lands, monotonous subdivisions, deserted downtowns and unsafe streets and parks. Being a “form-based code”, it addresses primarily the physical form of building and community. It is thus unlike conventional zoning codes based on single use and density allocations, which have caused systemic problems over the years by making mixed use and walkable neighborhoods inadvertently illegal.

Being Transect-based, the SmartCode ensures that a community offers a full diversity of building types, thoroughfare types and civic space types and that they have characteristics appropriate to their locations in the environment. With the SmartCode, it is possible to coordinate standards across other disciplines including transportation and environmental performance. The platform of the Transect allows the integration of the design protocols of traffic engineering, public works, town planning, architecture, landscape architecture and ecology.


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