Animating Performance Zoning at Sustainability's Competitive Edge

63 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2015 Last revised: 10 Feb 2018

See all articles by Michael N. Widener

Michael N. Widener

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Date Written: July 31, 2015


This paper argues that economic competitiveness requires cities and towns to reimagine their zoning regulations, leveraging technology advances to address challenges revealed by demands for sustainability in building urban projects. The optimal means to accomplish this is to implement performance guidelines through repurposed zoning regulations. Performance standards encourage creative solutions to negative impacts caused by increasing development densities. Performance zoning consists of a series of standards addressing specific sub-optimal neighborhood or community impacts of commercial development; these standards express municipal goals for sustainability and environmental justice. Pivoting to performance zoning from standard Euclidean zoning is desirable because the development community has a firmer grasp on how to mitigate negative externalities than does a bureaucracy declining to partner with experts from the private sector. I assert that community competitiveness, enticing millennials to join sustainability – focused enterprises and occupy sustainable buildings, is advanced by adopting performance zoning conventions. The paper initially reviews fundamentals of community competitiveness; then describes the Millennial generation’s support for sustainability benchmarking; it next describes illustrative technology innovations introducing a new era of built-environment sustainability performance; and finally it addresses why performance zoning protocols optimally advance community sustainability while growing competitiveness through increased livability.

Keywords: sustainability, sustainable development, sustainable offices, sustainable real estate projects, performance zoning, zoning ordinances, zoning codes, flexible zoning scheme, commercial property development, commercial offices, land use regulation, land use codes, building performance

JEL Classification: K11, K23, K32, Q48, R14

Suggested Citation

Widener, Michael N., Animating Performance Zoning at Sustainability's Competitive Edge (July 31, 2015). 29 Georgetown Envtl. L. Rev. 647 (2017); Arizona Summit Law School Paper Series No. 2015-A-02. Available at SSRN: or

Michael N. Widener (Contact Author)

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint ( email )

2325 East Camelback Road
Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85016
United States

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ( email )

Prescott, AZ 86301
United States

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