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Codes for Communities

The Form-Based Codes Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the use of form-based codes to create walkable, mixed-use, socially-integrated communities. The Institute accomplishes its mission through robust education and training, influential research and visible outreach. FBCI Codes for Communities draws on the experience and talents of FBCI leaders to provide local governments with advice and guidance on form-based codes.  FBCI offers communities two levels of assistance in the Codes for Communities program.


FBCI works with communities around the country to provide expert advice on a new draft code, evaluate an existing code, or comment on proposed updates to a current code.  City staff submit a code for review and FBCI selects a team of experts who have written or implemented codes for similar places who review, comment and offer suggestions on the code or updates.  A final report is prepared by FBCI and submitted to the local government.  In lieu of a fee, a donation is made to FBCI. The amount of the donation will depend on the extent of the assignment and is agreed upon before the work begins.

“We asked the FBCI to review the draft of a form-based code staff developed for the town of Marshall in Fauquier County, Virginia    As form-based codes are new to our staff and our community, it was helpful to be able to tap into the expertise of the FBCI for feedback.   The input we received by FBCI, helped make the FBC better and the review by the FBCI experts “The Expert”  on form-based codes heightened the community’s and the decision-makers ‘ confidence in the draft Code.” — Kimberly Johnson, Chief, Zoning & Development Services, Department of Community Development, Fauquier County, VA


Each year, FBCI selects one or two Host Cities to work with to create a state-of-the-art form-based code for a corridor, neighborhood or district, while also creating a benchmark model for other communities to follow. Key features of the program include the following:

  • A world-class team of practitioners and other experts, led by an experienced Team Leader
  • Engagement of the Host City staff in the development of the code, providing a unique opportunity to learn from the best
  • The option to engage local university students in the process, training the next generation of planners in FBCs
  • Wide dissemination, through FBCI publications, classes and other events, of the new state-of-the-art code as a teaching tool for local governments and a promotional tool for the participating community

Selection Criteria for Participating Cities

Applications will be evaluated based on the following:

  • Is the scale of the study area a good fit for the program — e.g. a neighborhood, district or corridor?
  • Is the city committed to adopting a form-based code?
  • Does the city have a vision for the study area and an outreach strategy for the study area, or is it part of the scope
    of the assignment?
  • Is the city leadership prepared to commit financial and staff resources to the project?
  • Does the city have the ability and resources to implement an FBC, once it has been adopted?

Key Responsibilities

The Host City

  • Identify the study area (corridor, neighborhood, district, etc.)
  • Discuss and submit a proposal to FBCI
  • Identify a City Coordinator for the project
  • Work with the FBCI Team to finalize assignment scope, schedule and deliverable
  • Provide background materials, data and logistical support as requested by the FBCI Team
  • Work with the FBCI Team to arrange meetings and site visits before and during the On-site Charrette
  • Review and comment on the draft code

The FBCI Team (Volunteer Practitioners and Staff)

  • Review and discuss proposals with interested cities and select one or two each year to participate in the program
  • Work with the City Coordinator to refine the scope of the assignment
  • Develop a fee proposal and sign an MOU with the Host City
  • Work with the Host City to develop a work plan, schedule, list of needed data and materials and deliverable
  • Identify the Team Leader and assemble the charrette-team members
    • The Team Leader is a member of the FBCI Board who is familiar with and/or nearby the Host City. He/she helps define the project scope, identify needed background materials and recruit other team members. He/she chairs the on-site charrette and oversees the preparation of the final report.
    • The Charrette Team consists of members of the FBCI Board, Resource Council and other experts who have extensive experience in form-based coding for the project type. They volunteer their time to prepare for and participate in the charrette and review the draft report.
  • Conduct pre-meetings and site visits, as needed
  • Work with the City Coordinator to plan and conduct the On-site Charrette
  • Submit first and pre-final drafts of the form-based code to the City for review and comment
  • Revise and finalize the code

The Process

Project Initiation – Once a City is selected to participate, the FBCI Team Leader and staff work with the City Coordinator to finalize the project scope. FBCI proposes a fee, based on the scope, and signs an MOU with the City. The City Coordinator and FBCI staff organize a kick-off meeting where key Host City leaders and staff meet with representatives from the FBCI Team to discuss the scope, work plan, schedule, available background materials and data and deliverables.

Background Materials – FBCI will provide the Host City with a list of data sets and other background materials that are required. The City Coordinator takes the lead in assembling this information into briefing packets for each FBCI Team member. Typical requirements include GIS and CADD files, previous planning studies, maps, existing ordinances and other related documents applicable to the study area and the project.

Pre-Charrette Meetings and Site Visit – Members of the FBCI team will make a pre-charrette visit to the Host City to conduct interviews, group meetings and/or site visits to gather important background information in preparation for the On-site Charrette.

On-Site Charrette – The heart of the assignment is the On-site Charrette. The FBCI Team, composed of practitioners and staff, visit the Host City for up to five (5) days to work with local staff on the preparation of a draft form-based code for the study area. FBCI staff work with the Team Leader and the City Coordinator to prepare for the charrette, arrange logistics, schedule interviews of key stakeholders and secure any needed supporting technology.

Code Preparation – Following the Charrette, the FBCI, led by the Team Leader, will complete a first draft of the new form-based code and submit it to the Host City Coordinator for review and comment. Once comments are received, the code will be submitted in pre-final form for a second review and then in final form, suitable for adoption.

Finances – The Host City’s fee will be in the form of a contribution to FBCI. Typical fees range from $100,000 to $200,000.


For more information about the FBCI Codes for Communities program, contact Marta Goldsmith, FBCI Executive Director at mgoldsmith@formbasedcodes.org or 202.644.8224.