Why Are Codes So Coded?

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Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by Administrator on Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:53 pm

They are the vain of every designer - municipal and county codes. Some say they restrict freedom and creativity, resulting in cookie cutter design with little original functional form. Others say they are a necessary component of a growing and thriving culture that improve the landscape. But one thing is agreed - there are a lot of them at every level of the design process and reading them sure isn't easy.

Why do most people find codes so difficult to understand? Are there ways to simplify them via text structure? Can graphics play a more important role in comprehension by the user?
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by Ophiuchus Park on Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:42 pm

It is true that beautiful cities like Paris, Rome and Praque were largely built without any codes. Could we do the same today? I think not - designers are not as good as they were back then and society has become to chaotic. Structure is needed to give designers direction. And when you have hundreds of plans to review it is easier for me when i know that it conforms to my code.

And yes, some will say it stifles creativity. But creativity is over-rated. Function is more important and cost efficient in the long run.
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by SSmith on Fri Jan 14, 2011 3:56 pm

Well, looks like someone is having a bad week.

I suggest this all started in the 1920s. Best I can tell that is when planning in the United States really took off. While I'm sure it had good intentions it has gotten off track. Imagine the percentage of development budgets devoted to fullfilling unnecessary code requirements, revising documents to satisfy code, and address on-site issues during construction. Sounds like a thesis project to me and I imagine that if all that money wasn't tied up in code required design we could have created some beautiful structures and landscapes with a strong sense of place and community and for all people regardless of economic level, not just those who could afford already. Raleigh would be a much different place. If you look at planning from one of its original purposes of serving as an engine for social change this has been its greatest failure.
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by SilenceDogwood on Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:43 pm

I agree on the history thing. I remember watching a series of PBS programs back in school that detailed the history of planning in America. President Hoover, an engineer, was specifically mentioned as being a strong proponent of centralized planning. I imagine that the oncoming depression provided opportunities for this and we all know once an idea is institutionalized it is very difficult to root out. In general, planning has become to pervasive.

However, having stated the above, I believe there is a place for planning review in the design process. For example, we do need rigid codes related to structural design. We should, however, be more flexible on code issues related to transportation, site design, landscape design, and tree conservation. Raleigh's tree conservation ordinance is a good example. Despite a very large user manual, one that is bigger than the actual ordinance itself, and regular workshops it has been difficult to get their message across as smoothly as they had desired. This and other code issues really come down to presentation. Simplification of thoughts, procedures and grammar would help a great deal.

Another issue with codes is empowerment. Local planners (and for clarification I am not one) and the TCA folks in Raleigh simply are not given enough authority to over-ride or have any creativity in how they deal with issues that arise. Code trumps all. Due to an overbearing beauracracy and the litigousness of society today they have, in a sense, been neutered. They have no realistic option but to use code as nothing more than a checklist to live and die by. I'll go out on a limb by saying this but Planners really do need to be given more freedom to think creatively and provide for the common good in their daily work. Basically, let Planners PLAN rather than check.
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by Administrator on Sat Jan 22, 2011 2:42 pm

Administrator wonders if anyone feels codes have passed the tiipping point and now prevent good growth due their over-intrusiveness and cost?
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by Ophiuchus Park on Sat Jan 22, 2011 8:40 pm

While I do not think they have passed the tipping point there are valid concerns. In the rush to develop viable ordinances over the past 10 years many municipalities have begged, borrowed or stolen from others (cribbed) to develop their own UDOs. UNC List Serv is a good example of this. While that is a wonderful way to get in the game quick often times there is no opportunity to tailor them as tightly as we should.

I like to say that a well defined Unified Development Ordinance is like a traditional NC wedding and always includes:

Something Old
Something New
Something Borrowed
and Something True
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Re: Why Are Codes So Coded?

Post by SilenceDogwood on Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:54 pm

To Quote Ophiuchus:
"I like to say that a well defined Unified Development Ordinance is like a traditional NC wedding and always includes:

Something Old
Something New
Something Borrowed
and Something True"


ADD:
"PLUS SOME SHREDDED BARBEQUE" and you got yourself a winner!
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