Good Lighting and Ventilation is Vital for Healthy Living-Part O

A beautifully lit, airy bathroom.

In terms of the National Building Regulations Part O, all habitable rooms, including bathrooms, showers and toilets (and interestingly enough garages!) must have some form of lighting and ventilation that will enable people to use these rooms safely. The most important aspect is that it shouldn’t be detrimental to the health of those using the room for the purpose for which it was designed.

If bathrooms are cold and perpetually damp, mould will start to form, and this can make people extremely ill. It will also make the room uncomfortable.

Lighting and Ventilation Requirements

Changes to Part O of the NBR (when the legislation was updated a few years ago) include a welcome move from WC (short for water closet – and a very Victorian term) to “toilet”.

There are also quite substantial changes to this section of the regulations. While the lighting and ventilation regulations are generally “deemed to satisfy” if they quite simply meet the requirements of SANS 10400-O, the NBR states that if there is not sufficient natural light from windows in habitable rooms, as well as corridors, lobbies and on staircases, artificial lighting MUST be provided.

Reasons for inadequate lighting might be due to:

  • the size or shape of the room or space, or
  • the use of thick, patterned or opaque glass for windows, which prevents natural light from illuminating the room.

Similarly, if there is insufficient ventilation, artificial ventilation MUST be installed.

Reasons for inadequate ventilation include:

  • high temperatures which could be dangerous to either the safety or health of those using the room,
  • dust, gases, vapour, “volatile matter” or “hazardous biological agents” that might be dangerous to health or safety, or
  • the purpose for which the room is used may make natural ventilation unsuitable or inadequate.

Compliance Required for Lighting

While the Act states that, “Any habitable room in any dwelling house or dwelling unit, or any bedroom in any building used for residential or institutional occupancy” MUST have at least one opening for natural light – even if there is artificial lighting.

Compliance Required for Ventilation

It doesn’t matter where in South Africa you live, any artificial ventilation system MUST be authorized by your local authority (council or municipality, or City) according to their own specific policies and opinions.

This applies to everything other than regular air conditioners and other appliances installed essentially for comfort.

Further, the “rational design” of any artificial ventilation system must be performed or supervised by an “approved competent person”.

Compliance with Fire Requirements

In addition to the general requirements in this section of the Act, all lighting and ventilation must also comply with Part T of the NBR, a very lengthy section that deals with fire protection.

SANS 10400-O

Part O of the “new” SANS were published in January 2011 after fairly substantial updating by the SABS in collaboration with Agrément South Africa, the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE), and the South African Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SARACCA).

Requirements specified in the SANS include:

  • general requirements,
  • requirements relating specifically to lighting,
  • requirements relating specifically to ventilation, and
  • requirements for designated smoking areas and smoking rooms.

Natural Lighting

The SANS specify zones of space for natural lighting which are guidelines that should be adhered to. These relate not only to the measurement of openings, but also to the angles of openings, and they specify how various obstructions affect zones of space.

Natural Ventilation

Generally, natural ventilation should be organized so that doors and windows relate to one another in such a way that the room will be effectively ventilated, and it should be at least five percent of the floor area of the room (or at least 0,2 square metres if the room is very small).

But anyone designing a home also needs to take into account the fact that in cold, wet or windy weather, doors and windows will commonly remain closed. This will minimize natural ventilation.

In holiday homes, or buildings that people only use occasionally, doors and windows will usually remain closed for long periods of time. Where weather conditions are very hot and humid, the interior of the building may become damp and mouldy. Airbricks built into the structure help; as do roof vents that provide permanent ventilation, even when doors and windows are closed.

Artificial Ventilation

The simplest and most common form of artificial ventilation is found in kitchens and bathrooms, in the form of extractor fans.

Extraction in kitchens (from stoves and hobs) not only removes heat or steam and other vapour, but it also has the effect of removing grease that is in suspension, by filtration. Because the greasy air being removed is hot, the regulations state that extraction units must be manufactured from non-combustible material.

In bathrooms and toilets, extractor fans remove humid air and filter bad smells.

Air Requirements in Homes and Other Buildings

SANS 10400-O contains a useful table that shows the minimum requirements for air, per person using the room. Again it is the health and safety of inhabitants that is vital. Where rooms are used for smoking, a considerably higher supply of healthy air is required.



  81 Responses to “Lighting and Ventilation”

Comments (81)
  1. please advise who is the relevant board/person to report a ventilation
    violation in a business building?

    • Hi Jason,
      You need to get in contact with your local muncipality. Ventilation will fall under both the building inspector and the health inspector, contact them and tell them what your problem is.

  2. I bought a house in Soweto Braamfischerville and there the house has
    no electricity at all and according to my site contractor the
    transformer got burnt,when I call Eskom to intervene they found out
    that no electricity was installed in the area at all and my house is
    still waitng with no elecrticity and is been 3 months now.

    • There seem to be two issues here:
      1. your contractor’s “story”
      2. a lack of power in the area
      If there is no power, what do your neighbour’s do for electricity? Perhaps you could approach them and together petition Eskom to provide power. Otherwise you will need to think about buying a generator – presuming the wiring was installed when the house was built.
      If the “site contractor” you refer to sold the house to you under false presences (i.e. that he lead you to believe there would be electricity in the house) then you can take action in term of the Consumer Protection Act. If you can’t afford an attorney, you can probably get legal aid.

  3. Hi,

    I have heard it is illegal to have a toilet directly adjoined to a
    kitchen. I would like to find out if this is indeed true, or who I can
    contact to find out about such a law.

    Mark Richards

    • Hi Mark,
      Unless I understand the Regulations incorrectly, then this is not so.I don’t have immediate access to the updated SANS-10400 Part P-Drainage; but previously section PP21.1 stated “(c) Where any drain or discharge pipe passes through a room which is used as a kitchen, pantry or for the preparation, handling, storage or sale of any food the means of access to such drain or pipe, for cleaning purposes, shall be situated outside such room: Provided that this requirement shall not apply in the case of the waste pipe serving any waste fixture contained in such room.”
      I don’t think this has changed, and as far as I understand the kitchen and bathroom/toilet can adjoin provided the waste pipes go to an outside wall. The waste pipe must go through an external wall and link to the waste system with accessable rodding eyes (cleaning access points) at every 90º as well as an external vent that must be installed.
      However, please also be aware that there a number of other SANS that come into play, not only 10400.

  4. Hi Penny, what is the SANS reguilation for miniumum opeings required for natural ventilation for a basement parking area. also 5% or 3%

    • As I understand it, any openings for natural ventilation should be at least 5% of the tool floor area; however in a basement garage it is vital to ensure that there is sufficient natural ventilation to ensure that noxious fumes and gases do not exceed a safe limit. I guess that roof vents will also be required.

  5. Hi Penny, I fall under the Blaauwberg Municipality and the inspector who deals with my area absolutely dislikes me so his irrational requirements are based on personal feelings and not fact.

  6. Thanks Penny but my absolute concern is health and hygiene as well but I cannot see the justification in the installation of a R12, 000 air ducting system, a huge kitchen in extent 14m2 where all I am actually cooking are burger patties and the odd portion of chips in a single chip fryer and the patties are cooked using a dome to ensure moistness. This also prevents splatter although all patties are cooked slowly on a medium heat on the griddle thus there is no splatter of oil. Being the chef, my helper and I always have our hair covered at all times, the kitchen is sparkling clean at all times, there are extraction fans plus the fresh air from the back door. The walls are tiled and there is ablution and hand washing facilities right next to where we work and every single ingredient is packed away in it’s own marked container. Every single part of health and hygiene is taken into serious consideration but a complete ducting system, a fat trap and 14m2 for a few burgers – overkill!!

    • The NBR covers fit for function and things like space – the number of people who can work in an area etc. No of toilets, basins etc as well as basic ventilation. They don’t cover the kind of logistics you are describing. That is, as far as I know, laid down in local by-laws – probably health regulations. There may also be additional SANS that come into play. I am not sure who you can object to. Which municipality/local authority are you governed by? And have you questioned them in terms of what laws/regulations they are forcing you to adhere to? If you are able to provide photographs that show the area – plus answer the two questions I have asked, I might be able to do a blog post and ask them for comment.

  7. I own a small pub and offer the patrons 15 take away meals of which 90% of the meals are prepared elsewhere. The section where the meals are reheated in a microwave and small oven and packed has an extractor fan, a serving hatch and is 4.5m2 in proximity. The area where we make burgers, chips and sandwiches, this on a small griddle, single chip fryer and salamander is 8m2 in extent, is less than 1m away from the back door that is always open. There is a constant flow of fresh air through the entire area at all times. The municipality is now demanding that the area has to be 14m2 with artificial ducting ventilation, a fat trap (we have a dishwasher), a wash hand basin for the staff (there is only 1 staff member in the kitchen and they use the toilet facilities next to the kitchen). Is this fair and just what they are demanding???

  8. My neighbour has and outbuilding which ends on my boundary, a few days ago she entered into my yard and has now installed a sliding window on that boundary, it that permitted?

    • Fatima, firstly she has no right to enter your property without permission. And secondly she is in contravention of the NBR and other laws if she has installed a window in a wall or any other structure on the boundary.

  9. Hi Penny,
    Can you advise on the amount of glass that can be used in the design of a house and options available to ensure that a glass design feature gains approval so that it does not to be scrapped altogether. Thanks

    • Unfortunately no I can’t. But there are many houses that use substantial amount of glass. The trick is in the design (competent persons etc). The only thing I can undertake to do is write a blog on the subject asap. I’ll copy you on the link.

    • Tasha I recently replied to another “reader” about the percentage of glass permitted in buildings. You might find this useful. You’ll find it HERE. I have also updated the information on the page that deals with Part N of SANS 10400 – Glazing.

  10. Hi Penny,
I am looking at some ideas for an alteration to our home. One of the ideas we have will require that the window in our Guest Loo be closed off. Would it be permitted/ advisable that we use a ceiling extractor fan only in this small room. The lighting is adequate, I am quite sure. Thanks

  11. Hi can anyone help. I have been instructed to install emergency lighting which conforms to SANS 10114-2 but I cant find the product or description of the product antwhere

  12. Thank you Penny your a great help. Does my company require the services of a professional to do the light intensity test or could we purchase a lux meter and do it ourselves?

  13. Hi Penny. what is the light intensity required in a room/office according to the building regulations?

    • The NBR do not give specifications regarding light intensity. You will need to refer to SANS 10114-1: Interior lighting Part 1: Artificial lighting of interiors, & SANS 10114-2: Interior lighting Part 2: Emergency lighting. I don’t have copies of these standards, but you can access them from the SABS libraries. They may even give you this information telephonically.

  14. I have a neighbour who’s kitchen extractor blows into our back door, is there anything we can do about this?and what are the rules regarding this?

    • Sounds very dodgy to me. Are you in an apartment block? As far as I am aware, the local authority needs to give approval for extractor fan installations.

  15. What is the regulation regarding 12 volt down lights powered by a transformer

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