Building Regulations (NBR) Introduction


  • Inspections when building
    1. During the building process there are a few inspections that most municipalities require. This will be of the building and the standard of work done, these are briefly explained in the following slides.

The Site That Tells You All About Building Regulations

South Africa’s National Building Regulations (NBR) were originally produced as a set of functional guidelines for anybody building any type of structure. They were not intended to be prescriptive in terms of what people should build, but they do stipulate important dos and don’ts – many of which are in fact mandatory. So if you are planning to build, this is a document you should familiarise yourself with.

While the NBR are only available from the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), has a mission to make it easier for the general public to understand what these regulations are and how they affect us all. If you want to know more about these important regulations, have a look at the drop-down menu under SANS 10400-NBR (SA). Each of the regulations listed here is published as a separate document by the SABS. The size of each published document and its cost can be found at the SABS Online Standards Webstore.

Please be aware that while the topics featured on are those found in the regulations, we have not duplicated the regulations. Instead we have discussed the issues the regulations cover in easy to understand pages. Also note that we are in no way associated with the SABS.

Parts of the South African National Building Regulations (NBR)

The Building Regulations are divided into 23 chapters as follows: Part A: General Principles and Requirements, Part B: Structural Design, Part C: Dimensions, Part D: Public Safety, Part E: Demolition Work, Part F: Site Operations, Part G: Excavations, Part G: Foundations, Part J: Floors, Part K: Walls, Part L: Roofs, Part M: Stairways, Part N: Glazing, Part O: Lighting and Ventilation, Part P: Drainage, Part Q: Non-water-borne Sanitary Disposal, Part R: Stormwater Disposal, Part S: Facilities for Disabled Persons, Part T: Fire Protection, Part U: Refuse Disposal, Part V: Space Heating, Part W: Fire Installation and Parts X & XA: Energy Usage

We are constantly adding blog posts that relate to these chapter headings to provide our readers with further information. You will find these under the drop-down menu Construction Elements. Some of these posts include personal experience and/or case history-type articles that share what others have experienced in terms of the regulations. We have also included an A to Z Glossary of Definitions and Terms used in the NBR to help you understand the meaning of the various terms used in the context of the legislation and national standards.

We have a free downloads page where you can access various documents, including a variety of Department of Public Works Guidelines:

  • The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act. This is the original legislation published in 1977 that governs all building and construction work in South Africa. Various updates have been made since this time, and these are also available for download.
  • Guide for Architects Concerning Drainage Water and Storm-water Drainage.
  • Standard Electrical, Mechanical & Architectural Guidelines for the Design of Accessible Buildings including Facilities for Disabled Persons.
  • Hardware sample list (guidelines for the required finishes etc. of hardware when submitting tenders).
  • A “Norms Calculator” for quantity surveyors.
  • Drainage Details that provide guidelines in the form of technical drawings covering most aspects of drainage.

Feel free to browse the site. To help you get orientated, here are a few articles that you may find useful:
Building Extensions
Alterations & Additions
SANS 10400X & XA – Energy Use In Buildings
Boundary Walls & Fences

New Electric Fence Laws
Waterproofing Roofs
Stormwater Disposal
Download Regulations
NHBRC Questions & Answers
Competent Person
Concrete Mixes
Concrete Mixes – By Weight & By Volume
Owner Building – The Pros & Cons

In the drop-down menu under the free downloads you will also find Links to several local South African websites of interest including:

These contain some information about the NBR.

International links on our Links Page will take you to information rich sites such as the International Building Code (IBC)  and the International Code Council (ICC) entries on Wiki (or you can go directly to the ICC here).

If  there is something specific you need guidance on, please post a comment on the relevant page and we’ll see if and how we can help.

Please only use Contact Us if you want to advertise or if you have a suggestions on how we can improve your visit with us.

Regulations for all phases of building

We give advice on Regulations for all phases of building.

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  1,240 Responses to “Building Regulations (NBR) Introduction”

Comments (1240)
  1. Good day
    Are one allowed to build against the inside boundary wall? Also, how much of the yard can be build on?


    • Arnold, you need plans to build anything, and it will be up to the municipality/council to decide whether you can build against the boundary wall. I don’t think there is a specific building regulation that gives percentages, though usually you cannot build within 1.5 m of a boundary. So, since you will have to give your local council plans, ask them what their policy is first. Good luck.

  2. Please advise what the building regulation is for building next to electricity cables in Lenasia Extension 5.?

    • Betty there are no building regulations that relate specifically to particular locations. Furthermore, electrical installations are not covered in the National Building Regulations. For general requirements you will have to refer to SANS 10142: the Code of Practice for the Wiring of Premises (a national standard). Alternatively call the City of Johannesburg offices and ask them the question.

  3. Hi Penny,

    I am trying to find out where i can get info on the new legislation rules. As per the municipality, we are not allowed to change the use of a room without letting them know about it. Is this true?
    They wanted “as built” plans which we had drawn up but they now say that the number of “bedrooms” have increased from the last approved plans. Surely there is no rule stating that a house can only have 5 or 10 bedrooms.

    • Nell, There is a big difference between a five-bedroomed and a ten-bedroomed house. Apart from structural elements, the size of the house will affect your rates and taxes.
      But are you saying that “rooms” that were not intended for use as bedrooms have been converted into bedrooms? i.e. That the size of the house as such has not changed.
      Essentially the legislation is there to prevent people from converting garages, storerooms etc into bedrooms without plans… for safety and hygiene reasons.
      Out of interest, why did they call for “as built” plans in the first place? And were you aware of what was on the last approved plans?

      • Penny,

        The house originally had 3 bedrooms. we then wanted to start a B&B and extended the house with an additional 4 bedrooms plus a smokers room and a gym room (built according to approved plans)

        2 rooms that we have changed into bedrooms have not been changed structurally, in fact these rooms, even though one was a gym room and the other a smoking room, had toilets in them already, we did not change the structure of any room. We simply changed the furniture within them to better suite our current needs.

        They asked for as built plans because we did add an area of 4m2 to our Penhouse suite and the position of the sliding doors and balconies becasue one bedroom on the plan was not approved.

        • I assume the simplest solution would be to change the “function” of these rooms on the plans. If they insist on doing physical inspections, change the furniture back the way it was to get the plans through council. By following procedure, you should avoid ongoing argument and then can get on with your lives as before.

  4. Hi Penny,
    I have drawn up plans for an existing as built alteration, do you know what the procedure is to submit ‘as built’ plans especially regarding all the submission forms that have to be completed. I am reluctant to sign the indemnity clause as I did not oversee the work being done.
    Can one exclude this clause?

    • Sandy, I presume you are the owner of the property.
      My understanding is that since the NBR were updated in 2008, ALL plans (new or as-built) need to be submitted by a “competent person’. i.e. an architect, engineer, draughtsman etc. If this person didn’t draw up the plans, they will need to check that the plans are accurate and sign them prior to submitting them. Procedure differs according to local authority requirements, but any ‘competent person’ would know exactly what these are. He/she would also be able to advise you in terms of the indemnity clause.
      I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  5. Dear Penny,

    The company I work for is leasing a building and i have just found out that we do not have hot water in the bathrooms and according to the Safety Regulations we need to have both hot and cold water. We have approached the landlord, but he wants us to either sort it out ourselves, or he can do it for us but we must re-imburse him. I thought providing hot and cold water is part of the base building and the landlord must comply?

    Can you please shed some light.


    • Zuki, It depends on your lease agreement. While it is everyone’s right to have access to water, I am not aware of any legislation that species that hot water must be provided. However, if the bathrooms have both hot and cold taps, and there isn’t hot water, you could probably claim against the landlord and say that you have been misled.

  6. Hi Penny, I recently got plans drawn up however they were not approved as i was told that the municipality is in the process to allow complex houses an additonal 5% for alterations but that it was still in the pipline. i decided to go ahead an build which i converted my carport to a home office fullyclosed with a roof. i now heard that the municipality are no longer alowing for the 5% alteration. What can i do to get my plans approved as the building is up already.

    please advice

    • Kate I am not familiar with this legislation. In fact I am not aware of legislation that limits the size of buildings, other than that relevant to boundaries and building lines. However, from what you say, I imagine that you could apply to the municipality for a waiver. If they don’t approve it, you may be forced to demolish what you have built.

  7. Hi my house was built 4 years ago and during this time,no telling exactly when, my ceptic tank has caved in under ground. The builder who built our home says that his work is only guaranteed for 3 months. I had our insurance company take a look and they refuse to pay out as there was not sufficient stabakising material used in the installation of the tank. How long is a builder or plumber legally liable to take responsibility for this type of shoddy workmanship?

    Thanks a lot!


    • Craig the health inspectors are normally incredibly strict when it comes to plumbing, including septic tanks and soakaways. It sounds to me as if this is a precast unit? If so they should have checked the stabilizing material before the tank was installed. But clearly the workmanship is substandard.
      In terms of legal liability; you need to check your contract with the builder to see what was specified. Also check whether the builder is – or was – registered with the NHBRC. If he is then you have some recourse. Otherwise you will need to consult an attorney who will be able to advise on what grounds you can claim compensation.
      In terms of the insurance company, I guess they would only pay out if the tank itself had burst or collapsed for a reason other than substandard building. But it might be worth getting another assessor in to look at the tank. You might even ask the builder to inspect to see what HE says caused the collapse.

  8. Hi Penny

    Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    I am in the process of submitting plans to the Municipality and requested exemption from the new regulations SANS 10400XA because I developed my plans before the introduction of the new regulations.

    What are the chances of getting the exemption from the municipality?
    What would be the consequences if I want to sell 10 yrs later?

  9. Hi!
    Tell me is one allowed to extent or demolish an RDP house?

    • I am not familiar with specific legislation that deals with RDP houses, but I presume it would depend on who legally holds the title deeds. You need plans to extend any form of house; and you need to be the owner of the property.

  10. Hi Penny:

    Anyway you can tell me how to get climatic data for structural design in South Africa? I can’t seem to find the right section in the SABC. I am specifically looking for design wind speeds.

    Thanks in advance for your assistance.


    • Paul try phoning the SABS library and ask if they can help. Alternatively go in and ask in person. They will be able to pull all the national standards (and possibly some international ones – ISOs) that deal with wind speeds and how this relates to design.
      I have done a quick search on the Internet, and these links may also be useful:
      1) This SA company has attempted to define the “basis of design to the two wind load codes and the effects they have on design.” They refer to SABS 0160 (which should now be SANS 10160) which they state is a specification that has adapted to local conditions from BS CP3 Chapter V (this is a British standard).

  11. Hi Penny
    I wonder if you can help. We have 3 different factories and about 100 employees split up between the 3 factories. What does the law say about how many toilets & showers should each factory have??

    • Charne, the Building Regulations have occupancy classifications; so you will need to check Part A: Administration of SANS 10400 to see which category your factories fall into. e.g. Low Risk Commercial Service is B3. They also specify the size of the building per person – B3 = each person needs 15 square metres. Part P: Drainage specifies the provision of sanitary fixtures (amongst other things). The tables break this down further for personnel, public and visitors, as well as peak demand. You need to double-check SANS 10400 to make sure that your factories fit the category, but it looks like a B3 building with a “population” up to 30 needs:
      a toilet and basin for public/visitors (unless they have access to those in the factory) plus a toilet, two urinals and two basins for men, and three toilets and two basins for women. If the building has a population of up to 60, you need two toilets and three urinals/basins for men, as well as five toilets and three basins for women. But this is the guideline, and I presume it will also depend on the sex of staff.
      If you go to your nearest SABS office library, you can ask to see a copy of these two parts of SANS 10400 and check for yourself.

  12. Hi Penny,

    Please will you advise me on the following:
    We bought a townhouse +/-12 years ago (plot & plan). The title deads of the property states that the square meterage of the Mail building is 60 squares. +/- 6 years later, we did extesions to the townhouse by adding on an open braai area (4 pillars, zinc roof and flooring) – sized at 20 square metres. While in the process of selling our townhouse, we discovered that the Municipality had lost our original approved plans and requested us to re-submit them.
    Our draftsman that drew up our new plans (about 3months) discovered that when the builders built our townhouse, they didn’t measure correctly and built the main building as 64 square meters. Now the laywers are requesting that we re-register the whole townhouse.
    My question to you is how does one correct this issue and is it necessary to do so? And does one need to register the outside area with the deeds office if it’s not enclosed?

    Thank you so much.

    • Robyn, there are several issues here. You, as the owner, appear to have followed the correct procedures all the way down the line, however you may need to get independent legal advice (even if the lawyers dealing with the sale were nominated by you, the seller – which is the norm).
      These are my thoughts, but remember I am not an attorney!
      Title deed: This is primarily to describe the property with its erf (stand) number, size, where it is etc. and to prove who is the registered owner. Once it is registered in your name that’s it! You would have paid transfer duty, conveyancing fees, deeds office fees and VAT. I don’t believe that the lawyers have any right to make you re-register with the deeds office and have to cover all these fees again – for any reason.
      I wasn’t aware that the size of the house itself had to be specified on the title deed… e.g. If you do a legal addition to any home, you don’t have to re-register the title deeds!
      Plans: I would say that the municipality is at fault here and don’t believe that they have the right to demand that you resubmit your plans. What if you had bought the house ready built? It is not the norm to be supplied with plans when you buy a house. When we have bought existing houses, we have always got plans from the local council – not the deeds office. When we have built houses, we have only ever submitted plans to council; we have never submitted plans or any information regarding these to the deeds office.
      In terms of the size of the building as shown on your original plans: You bought plot and plan and so would have assumed that the house was the size shown on the plan. It was not your responsibility to check this. Here the responsibility again lay with the local council (the building inspector should have measured the foundation trenches before the concrete was placed).
      If this affects the sale of your property detrimentally, you may well have a legal claim against your municipality! Let me know what happens. Good luck.

  13. Hi Penny, Ihave a few question for you:

    1. how long does a builder have to keep the plans of a building that he has built, if at all?

    2. how long, if at all, does a builder have to keep occupation certificates issued by the relevant authority (ie: municipality)

    3. Once a hoem is built, in particular a wooden house, does it have to be registered with the NHBRC. and if so, how do we go about obtaining proof of such registration and the relevant documentation?

    4. If a builder wants to deviate from the municipla approved plans for teh building of a home and the material to be used, what is the normal process to be followed? can it be just be done verbally?


    • 1. I really am not sure, but a builder should keep plans at least until there isn’t the possibility of any form of claim regarding the build. This would relate not only to his client, but also for tax purposes and his own claims on materials, fittings etc.
      Also plans must be submitted to the municipality, so they SHOULD be available in perpetuity – from the municipality.
      2. Again, I would think that the local authority would have the occupation certificates – because it is they who issue them. I would think it would be more important for the owner to have a copy, rather than the builder.
      3. Only builders registered with the NHBRC will have this kind of documentation. The majority of so-called Wendy house structures built for occupation/living, are not constructed by builders as such. Rather they are manufactured by companies that specialize in wood structures of this type. Larger, more sophisticated wooden houses might be built by NHBRC-registered builders.
      4. Builders MUST follow the approved plans. Any deviation needs to be approved by the municipality. This cannot be done verbally.
      I hope this helps.

      • Thanks Penny.

        With Regards to number 1, are you saying there is no Regulation/requirement which directs the keeping of such plans by builders?

        With regards to number 2, is ther also no Regulation/requirement which direts the keeping of uch occupations certificates by the builder?

        With regards to number 3, how would one be able to get proof of such registration?

        • I am not certain, but I doubt it unless there are bylaws (i.e. laid down by local authorities – which could differ) that state that builders must be able to provide this information within a specific period of time.
          Regarding registration with the NHBRC, they will be able to give you the information you require. If they refuse to, let me know. But then I will need to know when you contacted them, how (phone, email, letter etc), and who you were in contact with.

  14. Good day…

    I’m Zakes Morema from Seshego on the Limpopo province. I’ve recently found interest in the constraction industry as feel that our country cannot do with out the constraction industry. I believe the constraction industry is one of the gate ways to improve the country. Through this industry i feel that may jobs can be created, many people could be provided with homes and we can build world class infrastructures that will at the ultimate improve the economy of our country.

    I would just like to know as to what rae the procedures to adhere to when registering a constuction company. if it is posible, please foward me all the details on my email address (stated above)

    Hoping for an informative response

    Have a blessed day!

  15. Hi Penny,
    I have just bought a house, registered in July through an Estate Agent. I went to the local Municipality, that had the Site Plan, Wendy House Plan, but NOT a copy of the HOUSE plan, NOT ON RECORD !!
    I bought with an approved bond, from my Bank.
    On requesting a copy of the house plans from the Estate Agent, I eventually received a copy of the SITE PLANS with the WENDY HOUSE APPROVAL !!!!!!!! In the Postbox !!
    Question : Do I have to have plans drawn up, or can I demand plans through the Estate Agent ??
    Please advise,
    Kind regards.

    • Richard I am surprised that any bank was willing to give a bond without registered house plans. However I don’t think that it is the responsibility of the estate agent to provide you with plans. The municipality should have a full set of plans. If they don’t, they have lost or mislaid them. Perhaps you can track down the original owner or builder and ask them if they have plans; or if they can give you the name of the person who originally drew up the plans. Lastly, you are under no obligation to have new plans drawn up. That is not your responsibility. I presume the house is indicated on the site plan? If you need to submit new plans at any stage (e.g. for an addition), the architect or draughtsperson would simply show an outline of the existing building on the plan and draw up detailed plans for the addition.

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