Nov 162011

Design, Planning and Supervision of All Construction Work Must Follow a Legal Process

Each section of SANS 10400, the Code of Practice for The application of the National Building Regulations (NBR) is presented with the relevant extract from the building regulations (which is law), and is then followed by a general commentary explaining how the law should be interpreted to “satisfy” the law.

Generally the regulations themselves are remarkably short, while the deemed to satisfy rules (now referred to as deemed-to-satisfy requirements) are quite lengthy. But in Part A of SANS 10400, General Principles and Requirements, the regulations cover about 15 pages. By contrast, the regulations section relating to excavation covers just half a page.

You can download the standards (as published in 1990), as well as the most recent version of the regulations (the Act) published in its entirety, HERE, as well as the recent amendments to the Act. Just be aware that while the amendments to the regulations are complete, the SABS commentary in these documents, that explains how the regulations should be interpreted and applied, is not.

You can buy specific sections of the most recent edition of The application of the National Building Regulations SANS 10400-2011 from the SABS, either at one of their offices, or online at the SABS Internet store.

What is Covered in Part A: General Principles and Requirements

This section of the NBR covers details of requirements for plans, drawings and various documents that MUST be submitted to your local authority before you are allowed to build any sort of structure. For instance, you need to have:

  • a site plan,
  • layout drawings,
  • a fire installation drawing,
  • drainage installation drawings,
  • particulars of any existing building or structure that is going to be demolished – and you need to state how it will be demolished,
  • and any other plans and particulars that your local authority requires.

These general principles and requirements also specify the details that must be included on different plans, as well as the size and scale required on plans and drawings. They also state what colours to use to identify different materials on plans. For instance, new masonry must be shaded red and new concrete green. All existing materials are shown in grey.

When architects, designers and engineers draw plans, they use symbols to identify certain details. These are also specified in Part A.

There is also information regarding building control officers and their qualifications; specifications relating to plumbers and anyone doing plumbing work – only trained plumbers are permitted to do this work – specifications of who may design buildings, as well as inspect and assess them.

Changes to Part A of The application of the National Building Regulations

Previously referred to as SABS 0400-1990, these regulations were totally overhauled in 2008. This meant that the deemed-to-satisfy elements had to be overhauled and rewritten too. Reasons given for the overhaul were:

  • the fact that the apartheid system had been abandoned
  • the fact that South Africa’s population had doubled since the regulations were first written
  • the fact that local authorities throughout the country had been completely restructured
  • formation of the National Home Builders Registration (NHBRC)
  • the introduction of much more complex building control and systems
  • the introduction of an increasing number of innovative, new construction system for building

Furthermore, Section 24 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution states that everybody has a right to: “an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being”. So if our buildings aren’t healthy, and aren’t built with our health and welfare in mind, they are essentially unconstitutional!

Perhaps the greatest change – certainly the one that will impact on both individuals and the building profession – is the fact that all applications to build must now be accompanied by a declaration by a person registered in terms of a built-environment professional council, as to how the applicable functional requirements are to be satisfied. All plans must also be submitted by a “competent person” who is professionally registered in terms of the Engineering Professions Act, the Architectural Professions Act, or the Natural Scientific Professions Act. So unless you are a qualified architect, engineer, designer or somebody specifically with the required “education, training, experience and contextual knowledge” to judge whether a dwelling will meet the functional regulations, you are not a competent person!

Class of Occupancy of Buildings from the NBR

The NBR classifies all the different types of buildings, and when you look at the regulations, you need to be sure that what you are referring to refers to the correct type of “occupancy”.





The following table shows what the “design population” is for each of the occupancies above. In other words, it shows how many people are allowed in the various buildings, which area categorized according to function. Design population

Structural Design



  449 Responses to “General Principles & Requirements”

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  1. Good Day,
    We are tenants in a 10 storey building. Floors 1 to 9 are office areas and each floor is an 1100 square meters.
    What is the maximum amount of people allowed per floor? Do I apply the 15sm per person regulation as explained under occupancy and design table?
    Each floor has 5 evacuation doors/exits
    Please will you advise as I’m busy with capacity planning and do require the correct numbers.
    Thank you in advance.

    • I assume so Deon, although the building would have an occupancy classification as per the plans. It would be best to contact the local authority to check.

  2. Hi. I live in a residential area. Our neighbors are building next door – adding on to the current residence. The builders start at 7.30 am (sometimes earlier) and finish at 7pm (but sometimes continuing on to 11pm). Are there working hours that they have to adhere to? It is often loud construction with power tools and the noise is driving us crazy. Thanks

  3. Hi

    I have my own property( farm) and want to build small rooms for my workers
    what are the requirements

    • Hi Dinesh, Mostly farms are allowed to have 5 dwellings (1 main & 4 workers houses). Plans have to be submitted and approved before building starts farms are no exception to this law. Contact your nearest municipal offices and get confirmation on this from the building inspector.

  4. i wold like to build a flat apartment (double storey)for renting what are the legal procedures

    • To build anything you need plans that are approved by the local authority. Once you have something built you can let it out.

  5. Who is responsible for the building of a retaining wall between to properties?

  6. Hi can builder start digging trenches without approved plans.

    • He can dig trenches but he needs plans to build – and the trenches need to be checked against the plans before the concrete is placed in the trenches.

  7. I live in a complex and my one boundary is shared with another complex. I have recently noticed that there are new buildings being erected in front of my house in the other complex. Should I have been notified of this and do I need to give permission to build? Thanks.

    • It depends where you live and what the zoning requirements are + what the local authority bylaws say. There may also be regulations that apply to the complex. Unfortunately nothing is cast in stone … and this allows people to get away with all sort of irregularities.

  8. Contracted a builder and he has made a mess and left my house no when l call him he makes excuses to come rain is coming in it is rubble all through out the house Mosiwa construction for notate Mokwena please advise

  9. Are you allowed to build 3 story house in residential area in Johannesburg.

  10. I have a pre-fabricated concrete boundary wall. On my neighbor’s side, the soil level is much higher than on my side(my side is natural ground level). My neighbor is now complaining about my electric fence being unsafe because on his side the fence is lower than 1.5m. I believe that my neighbor(or who ever owned the property before him, raised the ground level for a garden, and is thus using it as a retaining wall. To my knowledge thuis is illegal. Any comments?

    Thank you

  11. What is seen as a second dwelling

  12. Guys, im having problems. The person who did my house plan passed aways last year, this is before my plan was approved by the municipality. However we were under the impression that our plan has been approved since well the guy who did the plan gave us a go ahead to build. We continued with the construction and im now buzy with the roof. It just appeared that my plan was not approved. Kindly assist me. What channels should i take now

    • You need to find a competent person who can get the plans approved for you – and there may be penalties that you will be required to pay. If you talk nicely to the local authority you might get lucky.

  13. Good Day Penny,

    Does a neighbour whos husband died have to give a copy of her husbands death certificate if we need her consent to build on an existing home?


    • It all depends on who the legal owner of the property is. If the husband left the house to the wife in his will and the house was registered into her name then no you do not need a death certificate, you only need her OK. If the husband died recently and the house is in the estate and is still being finalised by the administrator of the estate then you can get the OK from them and a death certificate as well.

  14. Good Day Penny,

    When submitting plans to municipality who qualifies as a “competent person” i.e: what qualifications etc does one need to be able to submit plans.

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