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, I work in a multi-tenanted office park. We are renting a portion of the first floor. The building plans (for the entire building) that were submitted to Council in 1998 only indicate open floor space and internal walls of the various floors, not the drywalls. I am in the process of removing existing drywalls and installing one new for our kitchen area. There will be no change to load-bearing structural walls. Unfortunately, the owner of the building says we are responsible for submission of new plans to Council, regardless of our small changes. Is this true? We are “on hold” with our office renovation because they insist that it is our problem to have new plans drafted for Council approval. Is this true, and what are the implications in terms of fire safety? Do we have to get plans drafted and approved by for those too? There are existing fire/smoke sensors, and extinguishers.

    • Check with the Council. It’s an interesting situation if the existing walls aren’t on the plan and the owner now wants plans for changes!

  2. Hi, I have a shed type building where the roof was constructed on I-beams and the walls followed afterwards. It is partially enclosed by bricks. The centre wall was built from the slab and not from the foundation. This is a non bearing wall. Is this not according to building regulations.?

    This wall consisted of a double brick wall measuring 21m in length and in some places up to 10m in height.

    If this is not according to building regulations, please advise what should have been done.

    • Hi Zelda, It is impossible for us to answer any of these questions without doing a site inspection. Unfortunately we do not do this, but there are a number of firms that do this for a fee. You could also get a “competent person”, an architect or qualified draughtsperson to inspect and advise you.

  3. Hi there i want to build a shed to store spades, lawn mower and tools. Before i biuld one do i need plana drawn up and will there be permission and a fee eith the local municiplatity regarding this?

  4. Good Day the property who is to the right of our property to the back has built a double story with a balcony which overlooks my back garden and my next door neighbor. We have never signed a consent to this building is this correct they can do this

  5. Good day,

    Would you be so kind as to inform me the following:

    How do i register my cc?
    What is required to register for my cc?

    Please provide information or link.

    Kindest regards,

    Charles Taylor

  6. Hi we are doing a building that Public Works is our client. Do they have to pay for council approval & occupancy fee if the original building was build in 1932 & it falls under Heritage. It has been vacant for over 20 years. Now we are doing refurbishment to the building. Do they have to pay?

    • Jeepers – if you’re doing work for a government department I would have thought you knew the business and what is required. If it is a heritage building then there are very specific requirements including some that you will find in the NBR. The municipality will be able to advise what is required in terms of fees and approval – who is liable to pay will depend on the contract you have with Public Works.

  7. Hi Penny,I just bought a Plot/Vacant land.
    I need to build a Shed 360 m2 and a small office on the property for my own use as the owner.
    I have build and designed a few sheds and houses for farm owners but I”m not registered with the NHBRC.

    May I carry on?

  8. what is wrong with having both wall ties and brickforce in a cavity wall?

  9. Hi, just a simple question.
    Is there a way of building small property to rent on the same land as your house..
    As in no plans.
    Something like a minimalist home on stilts with your car parked under it or using shipping containers…if you could refer me to a site or give me feedback on how to do it without complications is really appreciate it.

  10. Hi we just knocked out a few walls inside the house that was not bearing walls ( supporting the roof ), to make an open plan room. do we need plans for that

  11. Hi,
    I’ve purchased a piece of land in Blue Valley Golf Estate and the esthetics committees are restricting me in terms of my first floor size.

    Please confirm if council have specific requirements as to how big the first floor should be in comparison to the ground floor.

    I would also like to know if an esthetics committee can dictate to the owner where the pool and patio must be located

    • Hi Ashley, You have bought into an estate that has its own rules and regulations that all owners must stick to. These are over and above the general building regulations and local bye-laws. So the answer is yes, they can dictate where and what can or cannot be built. You can put in your objections to the body corporate and ask for a waiver.

  12. I want to extend and add on an existing house a plan is drawn do i need an engineer before the house can be approved?

    • Hi Selina, I can’t speak for the council, you must phone your local planning department and ask, because each one in SA is different.

  13. I would like to build another 2 bed flat on my property it’s zoned multi residential.

    My question is if I get plans drawn up and approved can I build it. I have knowledge in building but am not a qualified builder.

    • Hi Simon, If it is multi-residential and you are within the square meter coverage of the erf that is allowed then this will be a NEW dwelling on your property and the law states that you will have to register the house with the NHBRC. You can then apply to be an “Owner builder” and do a short competency test, the caveat with this is that you cannot sell the house for the next five years. Read more here:

  14. We have lived in our home for 20 years. We want to extend our verandah and when we got hold of our plans noticed that our closed in verandah at the back is not on our existing, old plans. What do we do now!

  15. Hi. We work in a building with around 300 employees. Is there a specification on how many toilets the building owner should be providing?


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