Nov 152011

What SANS 10400: Part T 
– Fire Protection Says

Nobody wants to see their house or business premises go up in flames. That is why there are very strict Regulations when it comes to Fire Safety in any building in South Africa.

Nobody wants to see their house or business premises go up in flames. This is why there are very strict Regulations when it comes to fire safety and protection against fire in any building in South Africa.

What the Act Says

Essentially the legislation is concerned quite simply with the need for all buildings to be designed, constructed and equipped so that in the event of fire:

  1. the occupants or people using the building will be protected – including persons with disabilities;
  2. the spread and intensity of any fire within buildings, and the spread of fire to any other buildings, will be minimized;
  3. sufficient stability will be retained to ensure that such building will not endanger any other building: provided that in the case of any multi-storey building no major failure of the structural system shall occur;
  4. the generation and spread of smoke will be minimized or controlled to the greatest extent reasonably practicable; and
  5. adequate means of access, and equipment for detecting, fighting, controlling and extinguishing such fire, is provided.

The requirements of the Act will be deemed to have been satisfied if the design, construction and equipment of buildings complies with SANS 10400 Part T and satisfies the local authority.

The Act also specifies several offences that owners of buildings need to avoid, including the need for fire extinguishers that comply with SANS 10105. Also, if people do anything to obstruct escape routes in buildings, they will be guilty of an offense.

What the Standard Says

The regulations for Fire Protection are contained in a 91 page document published by the SABS, SANS 10400: Part T Fire Protection. Much of the information is the same as that published in the 1990 version of the Standard that you can download from this site.

SANS 10400 Part T is broken down into several parts:


The bulk of the Standard is made up of a vast number of different “requirements” that relate not only to dwelling houses, but to every other possible type of building, from hospitals to parking garages.

The requirements for effective fire protection include:

  • general requirements,
  • regulations relating to safety distances,
  • fire performance,
  • fire resistance of occupancy-separating and division-separating elements,
  • fire stability of structural elements or components,
  • tenancy-separating elements,
  • partition walls and partitions,
  • protection of openings (Note that the drawings in SANS 10400 – 1990 that illustrate this have not changed),
  • raised access and suspended floors of combustible material,
  • roof assemblies and coverings  (the drawings remain unchanged in the new version of the Standard) including thatch,
  • ceilings,
  • floor coverings,
  • internal finishes,
  • provision of escape routes,
  • exit doors,
  • feeder routes,
  • emergency routes,
  • dimensions of components of escape routes,
  • width of escape routes,
  • basements,
  • stairways and other changes of level along escape routes  (the drawing that shows the position of doors in relation to a change in level has not changed),
  • ventilation of stairways in an emergency route,
  • pressurization of emergency routes and components,
  • openings in floors,
  • external stairways and passages,
  • lobbies, foyers and vestibules,
  • marking and signposting,
  • provision of emergency lighting,
  • fire detection and alarm systems,
  • provision and maintenance of fire-fighting equipment, installations and fire protection systems,
  • water reticulation for fire-fighting purposes,
  • hose reels,
  • hydrants,
  • automatic sprinkler and other fixed extinguishing systems,
  • portable fire extinguishers,
  • mobile fire extinguishers,
  • fire-stopping of inaccessible concealed spaces,
  • protection in service shafts,
  • services in structural or separating elements,
  • smoke control,
  • air-conditioning systems and artificial ventilation systems,
  • lift shafts,
  • lifts,
  • firemen’s lift,
  • stretcher lift,
  • stage and backstage areas,
  • eating arrangements in auditoriums or halls and on grandstands,
  • parking garages,
  • operating theatres and intensive, high or critical care units,
  • installation of liquid fuel dispensing pumps and tanks,
  • installation of other tanks,
  • warehousing of dangerous goods,
  • dangerous goods signage,
  • access for fire-fighting and rescue purposes,
  • resumed fire resistance of building materials and components,
  • building materials,
  • guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation (this is completely new),
  • health care facilities (this is also completely new).

Safety Distances

Although there are other provisions, including the classification of the type of external wall, the table below may be used to establish safety distances where walls do not contain windows or other openings. For ordinary “dwelling houses” where the area of elevation facing any boundary is not more than 7,5 m2, such safety distance may be reduced to 0,5 m.

Fire safety distances

Fire safety distances

Fire Resistance

There are several tables (five in all) that indicate requirements for compliance with “Presumed fire resistance of building materials and components”.

This table shows what is required for “structural walls”.fire protection

This table shows what is required for “non-structural walls and partitions”.fire protection

Rational Designs

The design requirements include the need for a competent person to ensure that the level of fire safety is adequate. This is particularly important in large and public buildings.

This drawing shows the basic fire safety engineering protection



Refuse Disposal



  238 Responses to “Fire Protection”

Comments (232) Pingbacks (6)
  1. Hi, can someone please advise. I stay in a townhouse complex where behind my unit there’s a stream of water which normally has grass that is not maintained well as well as trees growing in the stream. For the past week and a half, the maintenance people have been burning the grass wth the trees catching some fire and they use a normal hosepipe to stop the fire. We have been experiencing the smoke in the units for more than a week now and it is starting to make us all sick in the house.
    i am in Johannesburg and would like to know what the law is with regards to starting fires in residential areas.
    Please help!!!

  2. I am looking to reduce the power [electricity used] in the stairwell of a 5 storey commercial building. the stairs now have 2x58W flourescent tubes on each landing.
    The owner was told that the lights need to be on 24/7, is this correct ?
    Is there a minimum Lighting/ lux level required. Can i put a ‘motion sensor on the light so that it will come on whenever say, landing doors, are opened.


    • Erez I am pretty sure you can use a motion sensor. And as far as I know lights should not be on 24/7. There have recently been several discussions on talk radio (specifically on John Maytham’s afternoon talk show on 567) about the fact that many companies do not turn their lights out after hours, and how the City of Cape Town should be setting an example. These are not building regulations issues; why not give JM a call or email him.

  3. good morning,

    I have waited for 4 weeks for a fire hose to be put back.
    We had an incident where contractors worked in the complex and removed
    the fire hose reels completely from the walls as they painted the
    reels white and then realized the mistake they made. They then took it
    off the walls and painted them red again and reinstalled them but it
    is painting contractors and not a certified fire system installers.

    Will you please send me the rules and regulations on how it works that
    only a certified company is allowed to work on fire systems and needs
    to be certified after work has been done as we are not sure if these
    hoses are still working and need to be checked but we just need the
    regulations to forward it on to the Body Corporate as this is a huge

    I will really appreciate if you can assist me with this matter urgent.

    • Hi Stan,
      You do not say where about in SA you are. But to help your cause I am giving you an extract from a Cape Town media release. This by-law must be pretty similar across the whole of SA.
      NO. 554/ 2009
      02 SEPTEMBER 2009

      All buildings, with the exception of single residential buildings on private even, are required by law to have working fire protection equipment which includes fire extinguishers, hose reels, hydrants and fire alarms.
      The type and floor area of the building determines the number of fire protection equipment required, for example in high risk industrial buildings, one fire extinguisher for every one hundred square metres of floor space is required.
      The 11257 By-law Relating to Community Fire Safety of the City of Cape Town states that fire protection equipment must be provided and installed on premises as required by the controlling authority -in this case the City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service – and in accordance with the National Building Regulations.
      The maintenance of such fire protection equipment is regulated by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the SA National Standards Code (SANS 1475) and the City’s 11257 By-law. They make it mandatory to maintain the fire protection equipment and service it annually, or after use.
      Servicing only by qualified persons
      The servicing can only be done by a person certified by the South African Qualifications Certification Committee (SAQCC).
      The service technician must, upon request, be able to produce his/her valid SAQCC registration card and a valid SANS 1475 permit. Their registration can also be queried at SAQCC, or their Administration Office on tell 011 455 3157.
      The owner or person in charge of the premises may not allow fire protection equipment to be filled, recharged, reconditioned, modified, repaired, inspected or tested by a person not in possession of a permit or certified by the Committee.
      A further legal requirement is that all fire protection equipment must be maintained in good working order and that the maintenance records must be kept in a safe place.”
      BTW. I have put the paragraph in bold that refers to who might be allowed to work on or maintain your house reel.

  4. When is a hose reel required in a Sectional Title environment with simplex duplex and self standing units? We have conflicting opinions from our local Fire Dept! One says a hose reel is required on buildings 1 per 250 sq m and another says only when the entrances are shared. What is the situation when in a duplex situation, there is an entrance upstairs as well as downstairs?
    Then on fire hydrants; is it correct on the basis of 1 per 90 meter radius? Do we need an authorised plumber to lay 75mm polycarb pipes and to connect to the hydrants or if we have an effective maintenance team, can we do this job ourselves? Your comments will be appreciated.

    • Hi Charles,
      I am copying directly from the National Building Regulations Part T Fire Protection section 4.34.1 that deals with Hose Reels:
      “4.34.1 Hose reels for the purposes of fire fighting shall be installed in any building of two or more storeys in height or in any single-storey building of more than 250 m2 in floor area, at a rate of one hose reel for every 500 m2 or part thereof of floor area in any storey, provided that such hose reels shall not be required in any building classified as H4 or in any dwelling unit in an occupancy classified as H3 where each unit is provided with independent access to ground level.” Note. Occupancy class H3 & H4 are “Domestic residence” (Duplexes etc) & “Dwelling house” respectively.
      Part 4.35 deals with Hydrants and I copy the first few paragraphs here:
      “4.35.1 Hydrants in positions subject to direction by the local authority shall be provided in
      a) any building that exceeds 12 m in height, and
      b) any building (excluding buildings classified as H4) of any height with a total floor area that exceeds 1 000 m2.
      4.35.2 Any hydrant required in terms of 4.35.1 shall be provided at a rate of not fewer than one per 1 000 m2 or part thereof of total floor area and not fewer than one per storey located in the firemen’’s lift lobby in such building or occupancy, or emergency stairway where no firemen’’s lift is provided, as the case might be, and shall be distributed in such a manner that the fire hose referred to in 4.35.3 can reach to every part of the relevant area.
      4.35.3 Any hydrant shall, where required by the local authority, be provided with an appropriate fire hose of 24 m or 30 m in length, together with couplings and a 16 mm internal diameter nozzle, all of which shall comply with the requirements of SANS 1128-2. Such hose and nozzle shall, when positioned in the open air or in any factory building, be suitably housed in a cupboard.”

      The first sentence says “subject to direction by the local authority” so it is ultimately up to them.
      You can lay your own pipes but a registered plumber must check and sign off the job to the satisfaction of the local authority.

  5. Good day,

    How do I know if my building needs a sprinkler system or not ? How is that determined ?


    • Hi Peter,
      National Building Regulations Part T deals with Fire Protection and under the Requirements there is a NOTE 2) Regulation T1(2) empowers the local authority to require that a rational design be submitted should this be deemed necessary. The only one that will be able to tell you is the local authority in your area. All the council contact numbers are here: municipality-contact

    • Hi Peter,

      If you are in the Gauteng area. I would be happy to meet with you and compile a survey of your building in order to determine whether it requires a sprinkler system or not. Sprinkler systems are generally installed during construction of the building along with a Fire Rational Design.


      Clyde Becker
      076 012 4712

  6. Good Morning
    Can you please advice what is the regulation regarding a fire door and the FRAME in the Western Cape?
    Can the frame be wood?
    I know in Gauteng it had to be Steel.

    Thanks, just concerned.

    • Hi Ansie,
      As a “rule of thumb” most solid timber doors have a fire rating of 30 minutes (hollow core have a zero rating). This is what is required by the regulations. As each municipality in SA has their own by-laws this might be different in other areas. The Cape seems to be quite OK with timber unless special circumstances require a higher rating.

  7. SANS 10400 T – states that a a roof joining a diffrent devision in a building needs to be fireproof for 5meters away for that joining section. Should one have a double garage with say a 2.4meter scullery next to the garage ( all single storey) joining the double storey dwelling part, would one still need to be 5 meters away even if there is a divisioning wall (Fire-wall) between the garage and scullery? Meaning the scullery should be 5 meter wide to accommodate the distance or is the divisioning wall of 2.4m meters away sufficient? Thanks for your help..the website is great!

    • Hi Werner,
      Thanks for the compliment.
      I have had a look at the clause and to my understanding it is that any building that has an opening (window) in the wall above the roof of, for example a double garage, needs to have a fire resistance for that occupancy within that distance away from the roof. This does not relate to your normal fire resistance wall between a garage and a residential category 1 house that should be up to standard anyway. If you are quoting from the Standard then there is a drawing just below the clause: “Figure 2 —— Roof fire resistance” that shows how it looks.

  8. Hi, I am installing an open fireplace flue in a double storey lodge and i am in need of the reg`s for clearance distances from roof trusses etc. ( flue material is 3CR12), and must it be clad with fire restant material?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Sandy,
      The general Building Regulations even though they do deal with fire in Part W: “Fire Installation” there is nothing specific on distance from roof trusses. This might be covered in one of the many other regulations dealing with fire protection in particular circumstances. Surely the company that sold you (installed) the fireplace know their business and should have advised you correctly. As a precaution I would advise cladding with a heat protective material.

  9. Good day. I am looking for the section in the regulations which covers firewalls. That is, the wall in a domestic dwelling which is between the dwelling and the garage(s). Far as I know, this must be a double
    brick wall for fire protection purposes. Will you please assist.
    Thank you

    • Kevin I think that the term they use now is division wall: viz. “internal wall that separates one division from another division in any building and that has a fire resistance of not less than that specified in this part of SANS 10400 (see 4.6)”
      This is from SANS 10400-T: 2011.
      This standard does cover garages from houses (H3 = domestic residence; H4 = dwelling house; J4 = parking garage for +10 vehicles)
      4.9 Partition walls and partitions
      4.9.2 In any building classified as H3 or H4
      a) any separating element (wall and floor) between any garage that is not large enough to be classified as J4 and any habitable room shall have a fire resistance of not less than 30 min and the wall shall extend to the underside of the roof;
      b) any door between such garage and any such room shall have a fire resistance of not less than 30 min and such doorway shall require a threshold of not less than 10 mm; and.
      c) no combustible roof components shall penetrate the separating element dividing the space between the garage and the habitable room.

  10. Dear Penny,

    I am part of a body corporate that is looking to alter a fire escape. The fire escape currently exits out onto the road (which has become a security concern – hence the move). The proposal is to move it to face into the parking lot of the building (180 degrees behind).

    My gut feel is that this is a bad idea for 2 reasons: 1) prevents access by fire fighters and 2) prevents occupants from properly escaping the building site in case of a fire.

    Is there anything in the rule book that I need to consider further before we make a decision?

    Thanks for your comments in advance!

    • Hi Gregg,
      The SANS 10400-T:2011 Fire Protection is quite long and involved. The section that relates to your query “4.16 Provision of Escape Routes” does say in section 4.19.6 “The last component of any emergency route shall discharge at ground level directly into a street or public place or into an open-air space leading to a street or public place.” Many of the Part-T regulations are subject to a number of other clauses within the regulation and far too long and involved to insert here. I would suggest that you contact your local authority and hear what they advise. We have a full list of municipalities here: municipality-contact

  11. Hi,

    I live in a complex. we are on the ground floor & are allowed (if we get permission from the body corporate) to put up a wall in the front of our unit.

    My only concern is that we have a fire hydrant that would then be enclosed by this wall should we build it as per those that have already been built.

    What are the regulations regarding building a wall around an already existing fire hydrant?
    Would we be able to do this? would i have to build the wall in such a manner as to exclude it from the proposed garden? what are the chances that it could be moved?


    • Hi Leandra,
      It is difficult to give you a solution without having seen the site first hand but I will make a couple of suggestions that I hope will help.
      The hydrant should have been positioned “subject to direction by the local authority” – i.e. the local authority would normally specify where the hydrant should be positioned. The regulations say “In any …….. or group housing, cluster housing, or townhouse complex there shall be installed ground or raised hydrants so placed that no point in such ……. building in such housing complex shall be at a distance greater than 90 m from any hydrant.”
      My suggestion is that you contact the local authority and ask what steps to take when building your wall, and you might ask why it encroached on to your property. The final solution would be to build the wall with a setback recess to allow the hydrant to be accessible. A word of caution when digging the foundations is to be careful not to damage the pipes as these could be expensive to repair.

  12. Hi Penny

    Is the installation of a water sprinkler system on a thatched roof a building regulation?


    • John there is nothing in Part T, Fire protection that refers to water sprinkler systems in relation to thatched roofs. Insurance companies may refuse to cover you if you don’t have a water sprinkler system in place. Your local authority may also have some additional requirements in terms of their by-laws.

  13. We are busy planning a three story development and submitted plans. They were returned to us for necessary amendments and the safety and security department noted ‘ 1m between openings (sliding doors) vertically to be provided’. The building has sliding doors with Juliet balconies above each other and I would assume they are referring to this.

    • Arthur we are not architects or town planners. Sorry. And I have to say that “Juliet” balconies are not listed in the National Building Regulations. Your “competent person” should be able to advise.

  14. Hi

    fire rated luminiares (LED Downlighters) are they a requirement in south africa

    • Definitely not in terms of the National Building Regulations Moses, and I don’t think there is any other regulation that makes it “a requirement” in any context.
      Part O, Lighting and ventilation states: “Where in any building the requirements for lighting contained in Regulation O1 of the National Building Regulations (see annex A) shall be complied with by the installation of a system of artificial lighting, such lighting shall be in accordance with the relevant recommendations contained in SANS 10114-1.” This Standard is titled, Interior lighting Part 1: Artificial lighting of interiors. It covers requirements for good lighting and also basic guidelines for, and recommendations on, the design of artificial lighting installations for general interior locations. It is primarily aimed at new installations in interior workplaces, but also applies in general to other interior locations.
      So this is not a standard that could FORCE people to use LED down lighters.
      SANS 10400-XA, Energy usage in buildings, doesn’t cover artificial lighting, except to give guidelines, in table form, of the hours per day/week that artificial lighting must be available in a range of different types of buildings. Minimal to say the least.
      SANS 204: Energy efficiency in buildings says in the section on Lighting and power
      “Depending upon occupancy and activity, the minimum lighting levels shall be determined in accordance with the requirements of SANS 10114-1 and SANS 10400-O.”
      “Designers are encouraged to use daylighting in their designs to reduce the energy used.”
      So it seems to be trying to change a mindset.
      In addition there are several SA Standards that specifically cover luminaries and LED lighting, but these don’t say that they must be used, rather how they must be manufactured, used etc:
      SANS 475, Luminaires for interior lighting, streetlighting and floodlighting – Performance requirements
      SANS 60598-1, Luminaires – Part 1: General requirements and tests
      SANS 62031, LED modules for general lighting – Safety specifications
      Eskom has its own technical performance specification for LED downlighters, formulated in 2011. Basically this spec is a guideline for LED “lamps” that will replace those currently in use. It isn’t a regulation. However it seems from the spec that Eskom recognizes the fact that LED is the way to go in terms of energy saving for lighting, and the document states that “Eskom is working with National and International bodies to develop standards for energy efficient lighting”.
      Ironically, though, on the Eskom website there is this statement: “There are low-energy LED (bulbs) bulbs available for down lighting applications. However, these can be a little pricey, and opting for lower-cost varieties usually means compromising on colour, quality and distribution (spread) of light.”
      Hopefully by 2020 it will be a requirement.

  15. Hi Penny and Rudolf

    I live in a complex that is free hold. Between houses there is a shared boundary wall, houses are about 2 meters away from the boundary walls.
    My neighbour has just built a brick braai against the boundary wall without prior consent. The smoke from the braai will travel into our house and directly onto our patio where kids play. I doubt council approval has been obtained and there is no fire protection of this braai, what rights do I have? And what should I do?


    • Tabs, I would contact your local authority planning department and lay a complaint based on the fire protection regulations (see safety distance table on this page). While a brick braai will probably be considered minor building work (which means that plans are not required), people are obliged to notify the council of their intention to build. There is also the issue of nuisance and smoke pollution, though I am not sure how you would approach this. Ask you council for advise. If the local authority can’t or won’t help, contact your ward councillor for help.

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