What is a Planned Unit Development?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A planned unit development may refer to either an actual housing or building project, or the regulatory policies and procedures that govern the construction of these types of facilities. Also known as a PUD, this type of development may include the creation of recreational centers in a community, as well as areas for shopping or industrial parks that are operated by municipalities. In some cases, the development may include elements of two or more of these types of land uses, effectively creating an ordered community where people can live, shop, and work.

The idea behind planned unit development is to make the most efficient use of the land that is available, while still meeting the needs of the community. Factors such as the location of each unit within the overall development project, architectural design of the structures and landscaping, and access to the area are all considered during the early states of planning. Often, a planned unit development is located in areas that make use of land that would otherwise be considered unproductive or unusable.


While there are different theories about the actual origins of the planned unit development, there is strong evidence that the first systematically planned community project of this type can be traced back to the United Kingdom in the period after World War II. Developers proposed layouts for communities that included housing, shopping areas, room for local industry, schools within walking distance, and even parks and recreational facilities. The layout was planned to place industries away from the residential section, but still close enough to make an easy commute for workers. Recreational facilities were located next to the schools, with both within walking distance to the residential sections. This basic model was introduced into the United States during the 1950’s, and remains a basic model for planned unit development.

In order to manage the process of planned unit development, it is necessary to comply with local zoning laws. Many municipalities will work with developers if the proposed project is likely to result in increasing the quality of life within the area. Depending on the complexity and size of the project involved, it may take years before everything is in order and the construction can actually begin.

The basic model for a planned unit development has been adapted to fit into all sorts of communities, ranging from rural areas to the reworking of inner cities. In some cases, the development process will incorporate existing structures, modifying them to function within the proposed layout. More often, the development is constructed on tracts of land that have been cleared, leveled, and otherwise prepared for whatever combination of functions will be included in the layout.


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