Sustainability Elements of the Philadelphia Zoning Code Commission Final Report

It is the intent of this Zoning Code to permit and encourage more sustainable development and redevelopment in the city.  

This document identifies key provisions of the Zoning Code addressing the city’s desire to (a) reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT), (b) encourage energy conservation and use of renewable energy, (c) encourage water conservation, (d) to encourage urban food production, and (e) promote walking and community health.  Each Zoning Code provision is cross-referenced in this section, but the substance of each requirement is integrated in sections of the Zoning Code addressing related substantive issues.  

  • Reducing Vehicle Miles Travelled/Promoting Walking and Community Health
    Reducing the number of vehicle miles travelled in automobiles and increasing walkability within and among Philadelphia’s neighborhoods provide numerous benefits to the city, including reduced carbon monoxide emissions and other air pollutants, reduced consumption of hydrocarbon fuels, reduced traffic congestion, improved pedestrian safety, reduced land and resource consumption for parking lots and garages, increased cardio-vascular health, and reduced incidence of overweight and obesity.  Provisions of this Zoning Code that promote these goals include:

    • (a) Chapter 14-400, which creates and consolidates more mixed use districts that allow citizens to live closer to their work;
    • (b) Section 14-513, which creates a TOD (Transit Oriented Development) overlay district for application to areas surrounding transit stations and nodes;
    • (c) Tables 14-602-1 and 14-602-2, which allow convenience retail uses to be provided closer to where citizens live, and allow more shopping trips to be completed by foot or bicycle instead of automobile;
    • (d) Section 14-604(10), which allows a wide variety of home occupations subject to standards to address impacts on surrounding properties;
    • (e) Chapter 14-800, which limits the amount of off-site parking that can be provided and allows commercial and institutional buildings to be located closer to each other in more walkable patterns; and
    • (f) Section 14-803, that limit curb cuts that interrupt sidewalks and discourage walking.  
    • (g) Section 14-802(8), which allows off-street parking to be reduced if development is designed to share parking (encouraging mixed use), if development is located close to transit facilities, or if the builder provides bicycle parking.

  • Encouraging Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation
    Conserving energy and encouraging renewable use and generation reduces the amount of electricity that needs to be generated from fossil fuel burning plants, which reduces carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions.  It also leads to a more distributed energy production system that is less susceptible to overloading and less dependent on long-distance transmission of electricity. Provisions of this Zoning Code that promote this goal include:

    • (a) Section 14-604(6), which allows small wind energy systems as an accessory use in all districts subject to standards for compatibility;
    • (b) Section 14-604(7), which allows solar collectors as an accessory use in all districts subject to standards for compatibility;
    • (c) Section 14-701(6), which allows solar and wind energy equipment to encroach limited distances into side and rear setback areas and through building height limits; and
    • (d) Section 14-702(10), which establishes floor area bonuses for development and redevelopment that achieves LEED Gold or Platinum certification.

  • Encouraging Water Conservation
    Reducing water consumption benefits the city by reducing infrastructure costs for water treatment, water distribution, sewer collection, and sewer treatment system, and by reducing water and sewer pumping costs and related carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions by power plants. Provisions of this Zoning Code that promote this goal include:

    • (a) Section 14-701(6), which allows water conservation equipment to encroach limited distances into side and rear setback areas;
    • (b) Section 14-702(10), which establishes floor area bonuses for development and redevelopment that achieves LEED Platinum certification;
    • (c) Section 14-704(3), which requires that development and redevelopment comply with Water Department regulations regarding stormwater management.
    • (d) Section 14-705(1), which requires that landscaping in multi-family and non-residential development use water conserving landscaping and irrigation equipment.

  • Encouraging Urban Food Production 
    Urban food production allows citizens to obtain fresh vegetables and produce with lower transport costs, with related reductions in carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions from delivery vehicles. Greater availability of fresh vegetables and produce in underserved areas can contribute to increased consumption of those foods and reduced incidence of overweight and obesity in the city. Provisions of this Zoning Code that promote this goal include:

    • (a) Tables 14-602-1, 14-602-2, 14-602-3 and 14-602-4, which allow farmer’s markets, fresh food markets, community gardens, market farms, community supported agriculture farms, animal husbandry, and horticultural nurseries and greenhouses in a variety of zone districts.
    • (b) Section 14-603(7), which provides incentives for fresh food markets to locate in a variety of zoning districts