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. I have a friend of mine who owns a company, she requies a building certificate, she paid the deposit fee but she don’t have a full time foremen who can write the test for her and her time is running out

    • Please be a bit more specific. I am not sure what you are asking. What sort of building certificate are you talking about. Is this to do with an enrollment with the NHBRC? If not, who was the deposit paid to? What test are you talking about? Is she already building?

  2. Morning Penny,
    a New development on our neighboursite on a smallholding is busy to take a course maybe in a wrong directions with “Run over developers”

    There was no communication or documentation between us and the developers, for a neigbour approval on this 32 units in a smallholding area,

    According to them the borderline, a wall standing there for 30 years is 1 meter in there property and we must demolished it.

    They did start with to concrete the foundations and to build a borderwall on the other side.

    My Question,
    1)Must they get a approval from the neigbours before start building
    2)Can they start building with a big problem about the borderline between the two propertys
    3)Can we stop them, till this problem is solved


    • They do not necessarily need approval from neighbors, provided they have complied with the building regulations and requirements of the local authority. So your first step will be to make contact with the local authority/municipality’s building control offer and/or planning department.
      If there is a dispute about the boundary, they shouldn’t start building. But you need to formalize your objections. Demand from the developers, in writing, evidence that the wall is on their property, and put them to terms. e.g. Say in the letter that if they continue building without providing concrete evidence that the wall is on their property, you will take legal action. It will be more effective if you get a lawyer to write the letter, and shouldn’t cost you more than a couple of hundred rand.
      The land will have been surveyed when it was originally sub-divided, and these documents will be with the surveyor general in Pretoria. A land surveyor will be able to accurately pinpoint the boundaries for you, obviously at a fee. This may be worth your while. The “evidence” you need from the developer would be a signed document from a land surveyor that shows exactly where the wall stands in relation to the registered boundary. You are not obliged to accept their word.
      In the meantime, you can put in an objection with the local authority – and ask them to stop the building operation until the dispute is resolved.
      In any case, have you checked with your local authority whether the land was rezoned (which I presume it would need to be if there are smallholdings)? If it was then there would have been public notices for those in the neighborhood to respond to – and object to.

  3. I intent to build in an estate, I am currently working with the Architecture on the drawings. I wanted to inquire if it is compulsory for me to do a geo-technical investigation report for my stand or I should get this from developers of the estate since they obviously did these investigations as part of the environmental impact assessments?

    • Part F: Site Operations of the NBR F3 deals with Geotechnical Site and Environmental Conditions. If the local authority believes that there may be unstable subsoil or unstable slopes they are bound by law to inform anyone submitting plans. So find out from them if they are going to require a report. If you are concerned, then I would suggest you ask the developers for the findings of any geo-technical investigations they did. It isn’t necessarily obvious that they did them!

  4. hi penny

    i need information regarding a huge watertank the municipality erect right in front of my bussiness on a circle about 15 metre away from my front door and 15 metre hight also they blocked off one of my entrace gates coming from a pupblic impact study was done and they never consult with us what the impact on my bussiness was what should i do

  5. Hi Penny
    We are a government school who has been donated a marquee which we would like to set up over our school pool so that we can use the pool in all weather conditions and all year round.
    Our school pool lies within the 4 or 4.5m building line area therefore the marquee would sit too close to the boundary fence.
    What is a practice way to get around this or what do we need to do to resolve this matter in order for us to proceed with our plan?

    • A marquee is not a permanent structure, so I don’t think the boundary should be an issue. But perhaps you should call one of the companies that provides marquees for hire and ask them. They ought to be up on any regulations that relate to marquees. Also, have you called the local authority for their thoughts on the subject? Ultimately they are the body that would make any call for you to remove it.

  6. Are building plans required for a swimming pool that is 5 years old?

    • Angela if the pool was built without plans it is an illegal structure. If this is the case, the local authority has the right to call for plans, however old the pool is.

  7. Hi Penny,
    Not sure if you can assis- I am looking for regulations on hours of work that building sites can operate, I would have thought we had some legislation prohibiting work on Sundays/Public holidays but cant seem to find anywhere?

  8. Hi Penny

    Can you reccommend an engineer that I can use to pass out my foundation at a decent price?


  9. Hi Penny,
    I’m designing a house( medium sized dwelling with attached double garage) with a hip roof @ 18deg for the house and a low pitched metal roof behind parapet walls for the garage. the garage sits more to the front as for the house. The problem is i need to keep the house’s eave height very low at about 2,7m max to get the desired effect, otherwise it would look just out of proportion when it gets too high. the roof of the garage at its highest point needs to tuck in underneath the houses roof where the two meet. cant find anything in the NBR that gives the internal minimum height for a garage. also what is the min. slope i can specify for the roof? min. rafter beams i can use is 50x225mm. last resort is to make the roof over the garage paart of the houses’s hip roof but that’s not what i want.

    • Brynn it sounds to me like you are drawing the plans yourself. So first and foremost, please be aware that unless you are qualified in terms of the law (or have someone who is prepared to put their name to them and submit them to council on your behalf), they will not be approved by your local authority.
      My book on Owner Building gives specifications for roof angles, but these are largely in relation to the roof covering used. In fact the minimum slope you can specify will link directly to the roof covering you use, the minimum being 5 deg, but only for galvanized steel sheeting. This book also specifies the size of rafter beams, information that is repeated on this site.
      In terms of minimum heights, you will find these in the section on Dimensions on this site.
      I hope this helps!

      • hi Penny

        thanks for your reply. I am a registered technologist busy with a design for my own house. I know there are simpler designs whereby you include the garage to be also covered with the main roof but that is not the effect that i want. this design allows me to make a “drive thru” garage with a garage door at the back. I went through the NBR but it only gives min. dimensions for toilets, habitable rooms etc. it says nothing about dimensions for garages, non habitable rooms etc. I thought about going the precast rib & block route for the roofstructure over the garage which would seem to solve my problem but I can imagine the cost involved. I’ve done some additions/extensions jobs whereby i used metal sheet roofs and even went as low as 3degrees for the pitch, but those were different situations where heights were not a problem. doing the whole precast roof thing would maybe also form the basis for future additions which i’m sure is going to happen(maybe a studio?)

        • Jeepers Brynn, as a design technologist I am sure your knowledge is far superior to mine. I imagine though that 2,1 m would be the minimum height for any structure, including a garage. A “flat” concrete roof probably would be your best bet (it has to have a slight slope though 1:80).

          • hi Penny,

            lol, i guess that happens when you spend most of your career working on projects that does not involve any housing. and when you start doing them your mind cut’s out and then you feel like your back in 1st year. yes my feeling is also that i can make it with a height of 2,1m at the lowest point(FFL to underside of rafter), but when i try and measure up in real life it seems to be very low. i guess the pricing on the precast floor vs. metal room will determine my decision. if I stay with the metal roof construction then I might have to raise the main house roof by about 150mm but that’s nothing.

          • Good luck. I am working on a new website It would be great if you would share the building process with us on the site. Words and pictures. It might be good exposure for you professionally.

  10. my neighbour is in the process of changing a garage which is an old structure with a high wall on the boundary adjoining my area into a bigger structure on the same boundary into a flat. is this legal? it will take away my privacy on my pool and entertainment area completely.

    • Cecilia, your neighbour needs approved plans to be able to do this. I doubt very much that they would allow a structure, that will be used for accommodation, on the boundary. Normally you MUST build at least 1.5 m from any boundary. The local council may though approve a waiver, usually with the neighbor’s consent. I suggest you contact the planning department of your local authority and ask:
      1) whether the existing garage is a legal structure
      2) whether plans have been approved for the new structure
      3) what process they want you to follow to lodge an urgent objection the building work that you describe
      People are often ignorant in terms of what is allowed. Many others feel that they are above the law, and can do what they want to do, without following procedure. Either way you do have recourse. But I suggest you act as a matter of urgency.
      Good luck.

  11. Hi Penny

    Is there a source of reference that one would have to get frequent updates on or would the book recommended on the home page be sufficient in terms of a guide. Would there be other books maybe that one could cross reference.

    • Justin I assume you mean updates regarding the National Building Regulations? If so you can rest assured they will not be changing any time soon. They were first published in 1988; revised in 1990 and amended slightly in 1993. In 2008 major amendments were made, and it took about three years for the “deemed to satisfy” regulations to be published by the SABS so that people knew how to interpret them correctly. We will do our best on this site to check for any amendments that might creep in.
      My book on Owner Building is a guide to those planning to build or renovate their homes, rather than a guide to the building regulations. It does, however, discuss the regs where relevant. Although I say so myself, it is authoritative and useful!

  12. Hi Penny, when doing an extension on an existing house is there a need for step by step inspection, ie; faceliftin the existing house, putting new windows, extending garage to double. Can I do it without involving the local authorities as I have an approved plan. Which structural alterations requires inspection strictly ? Will I be ppenalized if I continue without inspection? I live next door a place where where informal structures have been build without the municipality’s approval but still no authorities inspected these buildings. But when ppl with approved plans do their extensions authorities will be knocking on one’s door. What are the guidelines gardening extensions to existing buildings

    • Unfortunately the “rules” for informal settlements are completely different to formal dwellings and you do need to involve the municipality. Contact the planning division to find out exactly what they require. If you don’t do it their way they could issue a demolition order. Normally they will check foundation trenches before you cast the concrete and then check things like plumbing and electrics. The completed structure also needs to be checked to ensure you have built according to plan, before an occupancy certificate is issued – though I am not sure whether they issue a certificate for extensions.
      I am not sure what you mean by “gardening extensions”, but basically anything structural requires plans – largely for health and safety reasons.

  13. Hi

    I reside in a block of flats and have carried out internal alterations. I have employed the services of a structural engineer and awaiting my compliance certificate. He is satisfied with the work carried out.

    I have since been advised by the Body Corporate that I have to lodge plans with the City Council, however I have received conflicting information regarding this. Some architects have advised that, provided no external structures were tampered with, then plans do not have to be lodged. Others say the opposite.

    What is the correct procedure? I do not want to pay unnecessarily. Is there anything in the building regulations to back this up?




    • The simplest way to resolve this is to telephone the city council concerned and ask their planning department what their requirements are. While the building regulations apply to the whole of the country, the regulations of local authorities (municipalities, city councils etc) are not the same. Generally you won’t need plans for internal alterations unless load bearing walls are affected. But it is best to be certain.

  14. Hi Penny

    We have a building where we recently had an internal structure erected within the building. It consists of a wooden deck raised 2.1m above the floor to create a second floor for office space. It covers 24m2 with railings made of wood.

    Recently the local building inspector had various comments with regards to this structure stating the following:
    1) The support (from floor to deck) is not of sufficient thickness
    2) The boards use for the flooring section is not of sufficient thickness
    3) The railings spacing width is to wide.

    is there anything in the Building Reg that states the required thickness and type for above mentioned? More specifically that this area is used as a public area.

    • Charl, the local authorities have their own rules and regulations that further define the building regs. What they require is what you are required to do. It’s that simple. That said, they generally rely on SANS 10400 that suggest safe, sensible minimums. The fact that this is a public area will automatically attract more attention in terms of compliance with any type of reg. If you were working from a plan, then these thicknesses and spacings should have been specified. Were you?

  15. Hi
    we have a building that we did internal structural changes and the landlord says we are in contravention as we created single door exits instead of double door, is there anything in the Building Reg that says we need to have double doors as an exit or a specific size of exit door?


    • Phil it probably depends on the type of building and use for which it is intended. As far as I am aware, exit specs are mainly relevant to fire regulations – which are, of course, a part of the building regs. I guess a club or movie house would need double doors – but not a private residence. But I really am guessing. If you let me know what type of building it is, I might be able to get more reliable info for you.

      • Hi Penny

        Its a call centre with 120 staff in a space of 280m square, we have a fire escape and an entrance/exit door which is a single door.

        oh and its on the second floor


        • In terms of the NBR this would fall under Part T: Fire Protection.
          Here are some pointers:
          “Where the population of any room is not more than 25 persons, the width of any exit door shall be not less than 800 mm.” But you have a lot more people than this – so I think that you need two exit doors that are at least 800 mm wide, and they need to “open in the direction of travel along the escape route”. These should probably be as far apart from each other as possible so that in the event of a fire, everybody can get out quickly.
          There are additional requirements for feeder routes to exit doors – essentially corridors or passageways. Here a double swing-type door is required and it should not be locked. But if you don’t have passages it wouldn’t apply.
          There are also specs for the width of escape routes and where there are 120 people, this needs to be at least 1,1 m wide. But I can’t find anything that says it needs a double door for access.
          Requirements for fire escape stairways are very strict.
          Two further points, 1) If you added or altered the escape route, fire escape etc, you should have submitted plans to the local council. It would have then been up to them to request any changes – e.g. that they wanted a double door and how the fire escape stairs should be constructed.
          2) What escape route was there prior to your changes? There would have been requirements for the building as a whole both in terms of occupancy (numbers) and function, as well as how many stories in total there are.

          • One can visit the Local Fire Department to get 100% clarity on this. They are ultimately the guys that evaluate the plans submitted to council regarding fire prevention. Also, a fire rational plan can be drawn up by fire consultant. He will look at all matters concerning Fire. Examples: Escape routes, signage, fire fightinh equipment and so on.

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