Hybrid codes versus form-based codes


Kaizer Rangwala

Issue Date:

Wed, 2009-04-01

Page Number:



As form-based coding continues to increase in popularity, the term “hybrid code” is being used more often. Hybrid codes involve the meshing of conventional zoning codes with graphic urban design standards that typically address setbacks, parking placement, building bulk, materials, and architectural features. Such a hybrid is not a form-based code (FBC) and likely will not produce the physical outcome desired. While urban design standards within a conventional coding framework are beneficial, they are not enough, and are not a viable alternative to FBCs.

“The conception of public realm in this form of hybrid codes is missing,” say Geoffrey Ferrell, chairman of the Form-Based Code Institute. FBCs carefully pull together the individual elements of the public realm — the buildings, streets, and open space — into a cohesive and memorable place. FBCs also integrate the full spectrum of land-use regulations such as planning, zoning, subdivision, public works, and safety standards to produce benefits in unison, rather than allowing these systems to clash with one another.

Because the form standards are not fully developed in such hybrid codes, hyper-control of uses continues. Changes in market cycle require constant legislative changes to the zoning regulations. The lack of precise standards diminishes the predictability