- Vision: The first step is to establish a long term design intention for a place through a collaborative process. A clear visioning process results in illustrative, yet feasible plans that reflect the anticipated market and balance the desires of stakeholders. A vision is graphic and place-specific.
- Design: The vision is translated into illustrative plans as a result of the study and practice of time-tested and universal patterns of walkable, mixed-use urbanism. The living tradition of urbanism is collected in a fabulous bibliography that spans centuries.
- Implementation: The rules and regulations that legally enable a vision through tools such as Form-Based Codes and the SmartCode. Implementation also considers the many other aspects of a project including infrastructure, politics, and perhaps most importantly, having the right people in place to carry the vision through.
1. Vision: The Charrette
Geoff is a certified and experienced manager and practitioner in the NCI charrette process, in addition to other public engagement and outreach approaches. The National Charrette Institute Provides standards and certification for the charrette process. Although often used to mean “workshop” or “visioning session”, a ‘charrette’ is an intensive, interdisciplinary, and publicly inclusive design session of a specified length of time (ideally four days at a minimum- often lasting a week or more), and set within a defined work program.
The process is facilitated by an interdisciplinary core “design team” that works on-site with public officials, consultants, stakeholders, landowners, and the public to produce a vision for development. Multiple days allows for immediate public and stakeholder feedback that insures a well-conceived and feasible plan. Although there are many possible design options for the project area, the charrette process serves to effectively balance diverse stakeholder desires toward the implementation of a balanced, yet inspired plan.
2. Design: Walkable Urbanism and Mixed Use Centers
With a core competency in urban design, Geoff practices urbanism as studied in the past by practitioners such as Camillo Sitte and Daniel Burnham, as reconsidered in the post WWII modernist era except by lone voices such as Jane Jacobs, Leon Krier, and Christopher Alexander, and by its contemporary resurgence through the Charter for the New Urbanism in the 1990s and its many prolific designers.
Neighbourhoods have an appropriate base density to foster community activity, support local retail, and allow for future transit connectivity.
A clear delineation between public and private space eliminates wasted space.
Neighbourhoods have a defined centre and edge as generally guided by the 400m pedestrian shed (a five minute walk centre to edge).
Neighbourhoods size is definite, ranging from 80-200 acres.
Contiguous countryside and greenways are preserved between neighbourhoods, rather than as fragmented limited-use pathway rights-of-ways that further disperse development.
A connected network of streets and pathways form a porous block structure allowing direct and multiple routes to destinations for vehicles and pedestrians.
Buildings are street oriented to engage pedestrian interest and allow natural surveillance of public space.
Streets and public spaces are physically shaped by buildings to create a sense of an “outdoor room”.
Streets are designed to balance character and capacity. Pedestrian facilities (such as sidewalk width and lighting) are appropriately matched to their context.
A range of uses provides pedestrian destinations and allows the choice to walk.
A diversity of uses including employment, shopping, and residences, and public spaces are within walkable proximity of one another.
Uses are mixed vertically (residences over shops) and horizontally (around the corner)
Residential uses are integral and include a diversity of housing types, lifestyle choices, and income ranges.
The housing diversity also allows for a complete lifecycle where all ages are represented.
A range of public buildings and public spaces are dispersed throughout the neighborhood.
3.Form Based Codes, The Transect, and the SmartCode
The challenge of creating walkable mixed use urban places requires different regulatory tools than are conventionally in use in municipalities throughout North America. After two decades of policies and initiatives aimed at land use alternative regulatory approaches, current best practices are increasingly demanding a shift from use-based zoning regulations to form-based approaches to land use regulation and development standards.
Use-Based vs. Form-Based Regulations
Since the 1940s, the predominant mechanism for regulating land use throughout North America has been through used-based zoning approaches that strictly separates uses, and then set minimum requirements for physical form. This segregation of land uses into single-use pods has become inextricably linked to automobile-focused transportation practices, which are now understood as a distinct and deeply entrenched barrier to effectively achieving Smart Growth based community design.
Over the past two decades, form-based approaches have emerged as a viable alternative to use-based approaches, and have become a widely accepted best practice to implementing mixed use urbanism and sustainable community design policies. Where use-based regulations strictly regulate land uses but are more flexible on form (allowing the predominant automobile-focus of our built environment), a form-based regulation more strictly regulates for form and character, with more flexibility in land use. For more information, visit the Form Based Code Institute.
Originally derived from the study of ecology, the Transect is a continuum of settlement intensity from the most natural/rural to the most urban. When this continuum is divided into zones, the Transect becomes a powerful regulatory land use instrument. The six basic transect zones represent six distinct environments, for which each urban element can be coded to its appropriate context. This includes not only setbacks and building heights, but elements such as lighting, landscape, signage, and street types. And although there are many common patterns found throughout countries, states, and regions, each place has unique climactic, cultural, historical, and local industry differences that require the transect to be customized, or locally “calibrated.”
The SmartCode: A Basis for Form-Based Regulation
The SmartCode is a comprehensive transect-based code representing the sum wisdom of over two decades of research and development focused on creating sustainable alternatives to conventional land-use patterns, and is the most comprehensive and well developed model code of its kind. The SmartCode was originally organized and developed through the efforts of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, who after refining the code through several partner disciplines and professionals, released the code freely to the public realm. Although Version 10 returns to the hands of trained practitioners, the SmartCode and Transect continue to be taken up by localities throughout the world as a grass-roots alternative to unsustainable development practices.
Form based codes are no joke. Now with over 500 adopted codes in place, a great many of which are SmartCode and/or Transect based, these codes have ENABLED the market demand for more walkable urban places that were ILLEGAL for almost a century. While the study roles on, check out the Code Study from my colleagues and past business partners at PlaceMakers: The Code Study