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Here’s how to get your building plans approved

To the uninitiated, council can be a minefield! The first step is to appoint a South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) registered architect/designer. A list of registered professionals can be found at www.sacapsa.com. In order to practice as an architect or designer it is compulsory to register with SACAP. De-registered architects are not legally allowed to practice architecture independently.

Avoid nasty (and pricey) disputes with your neighbours

The architect will obtain previous plans from the council and a copy of your Surveyor General (SG) diagram and Zoning Certificate. The SG diagram clearly demarks your property’s boundaries/area and neighbouring stands. The Zoning Certificate will tell you what the zone use of your property is: agricultural, business, commercial, residential 1, 2 or 3, and special use. Residential 2 or 3 usually indicates your property is in a cluster/townhouse development.

Speaking the languageboy with scrolls professional language

The building lines are invisible lines on your property demarking the point up to which you can build – your garden/boundary walls are not included. Typically, building lines are 5m at the front, 2m at the sides and 3m at the back. However building lines vary from street to street and it’s best not to make assumptions.

Building lines can, however, be relaxed; you will need your neighbours’ consent and the municipal town planning department’s approval. As town planning departments are notoriously understaffed it is best to use the services of a town planner or architect with contacts.

Coverage is the building footprint on the stand. In other words, what percentage of the stand is covered by a roof? Paving, driveways, swimming pools and boundary/garden walls do not count towards coverage in SA. Coverage is typically 50% for a single- or double-storey dwelling/building, and 40% for a three-storey building.

Floor Area Ratio (or FAR) is the percentage of living space allowable on the stand: bedrooms, lounges, kitchens or servant’s quarters will count. But garages, covered patios, lapas, sheds, swimming pools and storerooms do not. FARs vary between 0.3 to 1.2. A low FAR of 0.6, for example, will effectively ensure that the first floor is smaller than the ground floor in a double-storey building.

Why you need the title deedmonoploy title deed

You will also need to obtain a copy of the title deeds if you don’t already have one. This is not only to confirm that you are the owner of the property, but also because title deeds usually have restrictive clauses within them. This could affect the outcome of your building plan application. Typically, title deeds indicate that there is a 2m servitude on two boundaries other than a street boundary or pan-handle. Further restrictions such as prohibiting metal roofs or wooden buildings are also common. Title deeds can be obtained from your transferring attorney, the bank (if your property is mortgaged) or the deeds office.

Restrictive clauses within a title deed can be removed. This involves an application through the town planning department. Consent can also be granted for extra coverage/FAR. However, this is a lengthy process and I strongly recommend that you use a town planner.

If your property is within an estate or townhouse/cluster complex you will also need to get a copy of the estate guidelines from the aesthetics committee/body corporate/residents association etc. You will find a list of requirements that ensure aesthetic harmony and good building practice within the estate/complex. In addition, you will need your plans stamped and a letter from the body corporate for council indicating that they are happy with your planned building.

An Appointment/Completion Certificate from a registered structural engineer together with stamps on the plans is required if:

  1. Your building is under construction/finished.

  2. You are constructing a new house/building.

  3. Your plans indicate concrete floor/roof slabs, wooden floors, Juliet balconies, steel construction, timber frame construction and cellars.

  4. Your stand has poor soil quality or is on a slope.

Prior to plan submission you will need approval and stamps from the following:house on fire, fire men resize

  1. Fire department – if your property is zoned business, commercial, special use or if you are building with thatch or timber frame construction.

  2. Water/sewage department – if you are applying for building line relaxation, proposing a new house/building or doing major renovations.

  3. Roads/transportation department – if you are applying for building line relaxation.

  4. Environmental health – if your property is zoned agricultural, business, commercial or special use.

New regulations enforced in September 2012 also require that your home is energy efficient – this stipulates that at least 50% of your hot water is generated from solar powered geysers or heat pumps.
It is vitally important that your architect/designer does their homework before drawing up plans. This will save a lot of time and expense later on.

For plan submissions you will need:initiative ducklings with leader resize

  1. 3 copies of the building plans (2 colour).

  2. Application form

  3. SACAP registration form

  4. Title deed

  5. Fire department/environmental health/roads/water stamps etc. if applicable

  6. Engineer Certificate of Appointment/Completion – if applicable

  7. Permission letter and stamp from body corporate/aesthetics committee etc. if applicable

  8. Letter from town planning for building line relaxation, consent, rezoning etc. if applicable.

  9. Approved updated Site Development Plan (SDP) if applicable

  10. Plan submission/courier fees

  11. Power of Attorney authorising your architect/courier to act on your behalf in respect of gaining building plan approval

  12. Energy efficiency calculations for your home

  13. Lighting layout with energy consumption and demand calculations

  14. Water layout

  15. Heritage approval stamp and letter if your home is more than 60 years old

  16. Surveyor General diagram, aerial photograph, contour map and zoning certificate

  17. Patience

Who is Claire Cardwell?

Claire Cardwell of Blue Designs is an architectural designer with over 15 years experience in the Johannesburg area. She has worked on small projects – double garages, swimming pools – and new houses from a 1,300m² house in Featherbrooke Estate, to houses of only 110m² in size. In 2015/2016 she worked on a small complex, a warehouse, a nursery school and new houses in the Waterfall Country Estate, Copperleaf Estate, and in Limpopo on an old-age home and frail care facility in North Riding.



Review overview
  • Alexander Nyenze Mulemi 25th December 2018

    I need more information