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”

Comments (442) Pingbacks (7)
  1. Good day,

    Does the municipality come and inspect the construction of a new building?

    • Yes Trevor they do, and at various stages of building. For instance a building inspector will inspect the foundation trenches to make sure they are in the correct place and dug to the correct dimensions; a health inspector will inspect the plumbing before you can be linked into the sewerage system. The municipality will decide exactly who does what, and when.

  2. Hi Penny

    We recently bought a house and the plumbing certificate was passed. When we took transfer we were surprised to find 3 plumbing issues, which we were previously not made aware of by the plumbing certificate or the seller. We are based in CT, and as such our transferring attorney has explained the plumbing certificate was required to comply with the CT Municipality requirements, which he summarised as:

    1) the water installation conforms to the national building regulations;
    2) there are no defects in the installation and functioning of the water meter; and
    3) there is no discharge of storm water into the sewer system.

    The plumbing issues which we have identified:

    1) The water from the kitchen sink (on 2nd floor), exits the house through a pipe which is embedded into an external wall of the house. The pipe then exits the wall and the kitchen sink water flows into a large drain. We noticed that the water was leaking out of the wall, and onto the floor area, instead of all going into the large drain. We broke into the wall and identified that a screw holding up a wall bracket had been drilled into the pipe in the middle of the wall and had made a big hole which water was escaping from into the wall, which is we have identified as the cause of major damp issues in the lower parts of the home, and then running down along the pipe and onto the floor.

    2) When we run the tap in the garden to water the plants, the geyser overflows, and there is a fast dripping from the geyser outlet pipe.

    3) Dripping from the outlet pipe under the sink, when the water runs out of the kitchen sink

    With the above 3 issues, would it be acceptable to pass the plumbing certificate? Could we have expected that the plumber should’ve pointed these issues out to us? Or is this not within his mandate? Do you feel there is any form of recourse?

    Many thanks.

    • Kate my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that the water installation probably does NOT conform to the NBR. In any case, these sound like latent defects for which the seller should be liable (unless there is a clause in your deed of sale that specifically indemnifies the seller – which is unlikely). Were you aware that there was a damp issue when you bought the house? If you were not aware of the problem, and if it was not pointed out to you, I think you have a strong case in terms of latent defect. If you can prove that the installation does not conform to the regs then the council absolutely should not have issued the certificate. Then you could sue them for damages. The problem of course is that in both instances you are going to need legal representation. If the damp problem is going to cost a lot to be rectified, then it’ll be worth your while.
      If I were you I would contact IOPSA and ask who they suggest you get in to assess the situation. If you don’t have any joy, I can call someone for you and ask his advice – but it would be best for you to try first. What you need them to do is establish a) whether the certificate should have been issued and b) what defects there are.
      Let me know what happens.

  3. I have been living in my home for 9 years. We now have a new neighbor who recently bought the house next door. They have begun renovating the house and I have discovered that they are converting their single story home into a double story house. The reason I bought my home was because of the privacy it afforded me. Now that my neighbor is converting their home into a double story it is going to infringe on my privacy. I would have thought that in approving their plans for a double story home my permission would need to have been sought. Is this the case?

    Thank you.

    • Not necessarily. It depends on the requirements of the local authority. I suggest you give their planning division a call and ask what their policy is, and how you go about lodging an objection (which you can do).

  4. I have a big stand (1700m2) with the main house situated to the left of the stand and a huge section on the right that is open. I would like to build a small freestanding 2 bed house there for my parents with its own entrance, garage and services. What do I need to do to get started and also I would like to get confirmation on what are the regulations concerning building near a borehole pump as there is one in this section of the garden.
    Your assistance is appreciated.

    • Nandi, You are going to have to get plans drawn up by a “competent person” (qualified architect, draughtsman etc) who will have to submit the plans to your local council. That person should know what the local authority regulations are concerning a second dwelling, and would be the best person to advise you.
      Regulations concerning the borehole will probably fall under plumbing, and somebody from the Plumbing Institute should be able to advise. I know that some councils restrict the building of a second dwelling. There may also be restrictions in terms of services, specifically electricity. In some areas there may only be one main meter per property.
      You could, of course, contact your local council/authority independently and ask what is allowed and what isn’t. Ask for their planning department.

  5. I am dissatisfied with my building contractor. I occupied my house on the 20 of july 2012 but my garage in still not complete, there is no door and the roof was just finishe weeks ago. I dont know what to do because my car is not safe in a garage without doors. Zania Property developers promised to finish the garages as soon as we occupied the house but up untill now it is not complete. also there are other things she promised when we bought the housese but now she does not deliver.

    Could you please see to my complain

    Nomava Kobese

    • Normally the owner of a property will retain some of the money owing to the builder until ALL construction work is completed satisfactorily. Have you paid them in full? If not, be sure to withhold monies so that if they don’t fit the garage doors, you have the cash to get it done yourself. Having said this, since they are members of the NHBRC, I think you should contact the NHBRC and explain your dissatisfaction.
      If you go to and then click on the region where you live, you will find the relevant telephone numbers.
      Good luck.

  6. Hi Penny,

    I want to know what is the requirements to register as a draftsman with the local authorities. I am trying to make a appointment with the only local registered draftsman/architect to draw me a house plan, but it seems he is to busy or something i dont know… I do have the skills and the knowledge to make working drawings for a house and do have technical drawing education, but are not registered with any draftsman/architect body of any kind.

    please give me advice, Yul

    • Yul you need to have a formal, recognized drafting qualification to be able to register as a “competent person” and draw up plans. If you have the experience without the qualification, you could try and find someone willing to oversee your work. When you say you are trying to make an appointment with “the only registered draftsman/architect” what do you mean? Where do you live that there is only one qualified person in the area?

  7. Hi Penny, do I need building plans to build a two bedroom wooden house on stilts. Because several people have told me that I don’t need building plans as soon as I build a wooden house on stilts.

    • Nico you need plans for every type of house. The stilts themselves, as well as all the other elements, need to comply with the National Building Regs as well as local council/municipality requirements.

  8. Hi,my neighbour is building on his premises and builds on sundays too,starting at around 8am.Im not on speaking terms with him.What can i do?
    He also made holes through my wall to unblock the water that flooded his house when we had a storm and all the rubbish from his house went into my pool.What can i do about this?
    He also extended a boundary wall and plasterd the wall.It is now all cracking off.Any assistance to all this,will be great.

    • The National Building Regulations state very clearly (See Part F Site Operations, Control of Unreasonable Dust and Noise) that building work is not allowed on a Sunday if it involves machines, machinery, engine, apparatus, tools etc which “may unreasonably disturb or interfere with the amenity of the neighborhood”. So if your neighbour is making a noise, you should report him to the local authority and ask them to take action to force him to stop.
      Is the wall that he has made holes in a boundary wall? If so, did you build it, and are you sure it is on your property? If so you can sue him for damages to the wall. In any case you can sue him for damage to your pool.
      The Reader’s Digest Family Guide to the Law covers Disputes with neighbors. My copy is quite old, but it states that if there is no proof that the wall is entirely on one of two adjoining properties, it is presumed to be on one property and half on the other This implies joint ownership of the wall. But, neither party “may tamper with the wall in any way, such as making a hole or window in it.” So unless the wall is on his property, he is in trouble.
      The boundary wall that he has extended: Is this on your boundary? The same comments apply.

      • By local authority,do you mean the police?Yes the wall he made holes in is a boundary wall,it separates our properties.It was already there when i moved into the house.To sue him,i would have to spend money on lawyers too which i feel i shouldn’t have to spend.I have fixed my pool myself in the meantime.The boundary wall he has extended is on both our properties i suppose as it separates our houses.The worst is he is putting all his building waste like cement and concrete through the storm water which is coming into my property and has completely damaged my paving and grass.It actually looks like someone has thrown a bucket of concrete on my paving!This is only suppose to be for storm water,not anything else.Who can i phone or contact to help me please.The people at my municipality (germiston),battle to understand me over the phone and don’t sound very intelligent and don’t know who to put me through to help me either.The NHBRC also cannot help me.Thanks for your resonse.

        • Hugo your local authority will be a municipality or similar. Perhaps you should go in to their offices and find someone who can help you. Ask for an appointment with a building inspector or someone who deals with this type of thing. Don’t try and explain anything to a telephonist. They need to get a building inspector to investigate the situation as a matter of urgency. It sounds to me that what he is doing is completely illegal.
          The NHBRC won’t be able to help you, nor will the police. And you are correct that to go to a lawyer will cost you money. But you could go to the Small Claims Court without a lawyer. Another idea is to contact your local newspaper and suggest that they write a story about what your neighbour is doing. It could make a good story. Have you taken photos of the damage? If so, it might make the paper more interested.

      • Hi Penny

        I see you mentioned “The Reader’s Digest Family Guide to the Law” that covers disputes with neighbours, walls and fences etc. It is quoted in your first answer to Hugo Arotta, see above.

        My question to you: Is this specific publication based on South African Law – specifically for South Africans – or is it just a general rule of thumb spread over many continents? (I always thought that Reader’s Digest was an American thang?)

        Thank you for many hours of riveting reading. I really enjoy your site!

        • Hi Jan, thanks so much for the kind, complimentary words. I do refer to the Reader’s Digest Family Guide to the Law in South Africa now and then. I see in this case that I didn’t give the full title! It is very much a book based on SA law, written by a bunch of legal people and other experts. The only problem is that it hasn’t been updated recently. I have the revised third edition published in 1986, which is, of course pre “democracy”. But a lot still applies; and I usually advise people to get legal advice.
          In terms of Reader’s Digest in general, it is an American thing, but the magazine is published in various translated and edited forms all over the world. I did a couple of stories for the local RD magazine some years ago, but hated their approach (even though they paid relatively well). I was given an American article and told to make it relevant to SA. The one that worked quite well was Little Known Signs of a Heart Attack (if I can find it I’ll “publish” it on my personal website one day). I had to find local people who had had the same weird symptoms as those in the original article. But often they don’t “match”, and so I decided it wasn’t for me! Although I haven’t seen the magazine on shelves for a long time (it used to be at every checkout till in every supermarket), I see from their website that it is still being produced – looks like in print and electronic. But it also seems that they have become more of an online store than a book and magazine publishing business.
          Over the years Reader’s Digest SA produced many specifically South African books by SA authors, including Family Guide to the Law in South Africa. A lot of these were travel and related – e.g. about national parks, mountains, wildlife.
          Some useless information 😉 The SA company was based in Strand Street Cape Town for many years. International Colleges Group – Intec, Damelin etc moved in there and transformed the building internally (I did some work for Intec as well, and it really weird walking in the same front door and being faced with a completely different environment) – but aren’t there any longer.

  9. Hi. I was wondering what time the legal time to start construction in a residential area is?

    • The NBR specify:
      6 am – 6 pm during the week; 6 am – 5 pm on Saturday.
      No noisy building work is allowed on Sundays and various public holidays including Good Friday and Christmas Day (+).

  10. Hi.
    I just want to find out if all these building approvals are still required if one is building in the villages

    • Building approval is required wherever you live, assuming of course that there is some sort of local authority that controls things like electricity, water, building of roads, schools and so on. Which village in particular?

      • The village is called Dilopye, previously grazing land belonging to the local tribal Authority.Now being allocated for residential use by the same tribal authority.

        Northen Pretoria – Hammanskraal to be specific.

        • That is an interesting one. I will try and find out; though I assume that the tribal authority should ensure that anyone building should abide by the legislation. But would they allow people to build traditional dwellings? Do you know whether they are supplying electricity, running water and so one for building?

          • I know for electricity you can just apply at the local Eskom office, and will have cables pulled from the closest Poles/feeders, dont have a clue about water plans yet. the thing is : in such areas people can just erect A shack and have eskom feed the electricity there. Will send you GPS co-ordinates and you can check via Google earth Hybrid-not sure if streetview is available.

            thx for your responses.

  11. What is the rule of thumb regarding windows in a room? Especially a bathroom, can I install an extractor fan instead of a window?

    • Hi Fritz, I have updated the section on Lighting and Ventilation which you might find helpful. You will find additional information in the relevant section of SANS 10400 (Part O). The only time you will be permitted to install an extractor fan in place of a window is when the bathroom is not located alongside an external wall. The installation will, in any case, need to be done with approval from your local authority.

  12. Hi Penny
    I need advice please. My home was bought from a developer 8 years ago. My home is directly accross storm water drains that is an open pipe drainage system leading into a stream behind our homes.We we flooded many times as those storm eater drains failed t drain the water effectively.Complained to municipal at these times.Last year due to heavy rains- we were flooded where the water rose 1.2m high in our garage that led to car damage and other damages as well. We placed a claim with the municipal.They have declined our claim stating its not their fault even though we have proof and written report from the municipal engineers stating the pipes via cctv showed dmages and the outlet into the stream was covered by 1m high of sand.The municipal claims that a road next to my home is too high and that it should be lower so if the storm drains could not work efficiently the water could flow through into the stream. Tell me please- who supposed to pass the road ? The municipal does not want to take any responsibility yet building plans etc goes through them.What are my rights as municipal claims I bought the property at my own risk ?surely the municipal inspectors should have been aware of the drainage situation and seen that our home was not at risk when their system gets to overflow ?

    • Hi Deen, If your house is in a development, then the developer would have been responsible for the roads – and your claim should be against him and his company. The municipality would only be responsible for public roads. However it is not up to them to “decline” a claim. If it is a public road, you can take them to Court. You are also correct in assuming that the municipal inspectors should have known about the drainage situation. Of course the other issue is that if the drainage system belongs to the municipality, they do have some form of liability. Unfortunately it seems to me that you will have to get legal advice on this one. Good luck.

  13. Hello, I would like to know whether construction can commence with Site Development plans only, no Provisional Authorosation 7(6) was applied for? is my building insured

    • I would think not. However this is an issue that is separate to insurance.

      • Hello Penny,

        It seems that the building was illegally constructed untill the Occupancy Certificate issued, in the National building Regulations Act No. 103 of 1977 in point 4 it says no Building can commence without approval, or is there another Act that indicates you can.

        My Insurance company refuses to pay out a claim as they indicate the building was illegally erected?

        • The NBR is the legislation that covers when you can build etc. There is no other Act that over-rides it. But if you have an occupancy certificate, this is acceptance of the building meeting the requirements – even though initial permission was not obtained. i.e. It is no longer an illegal structure. Seems to me you’re going to need some legal assistance here.

  14. Hi, I want to know how many people may legally stay in a 3bedroom house, and does that change if the single garage is changed into a 4th bedroom. Also what is the legal restrictions if changing a single garage to a bedroom?

    • I am not aware of any law that restricts the number of people who may legally stay in a three-bedroomed house – although there is a “design population” table in the National Building Regulations (SANS 10400-A21) that states there should be two persons per bedroom. Apart from anything else, it would be impossible to police. You will need plans to change a garage to a fourth bedroom, because the requirements for garages and habitable rooms are not the same.

  15. Hi, I would like to know what is the municipality submission fee and what is the calculation based on.This is the fee I came across while gathering information about bldg as I plan to build next year.

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