Site Operations

Building Regulations that Relate to
Site Operations – Part F

Site operations building regulations
The building regulations relating to site operations are contained in Part F of the NBR.

Site operations must be carried out in a safe, responsible manner. It is for this reason that Part F: Site Operations of the National Building Regulations specifies how the public and property belonging to the local authority must be safeguarded. Other issues that are addressed include:

  • environmental conditions,
  • site preparation,
  • soil poisoning,
  • control of noise and dust on site,
  • demolition work,
  • waste materials on building sites,
  • cleaning of sites,
  • sanitary facilities, and
  • builders’ sheds.

Unlike many of the other parts of the Building Regulations, the legislated regulations (i.e. what is specified by the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act), is considerably more detailed than the SABS Deemed to Satisfy Rules published with the regulations.

Changes to Part F: Site Operations

The most significant changes to this section relates to Unstable Soil Conditions, a heading that has changed to Geotechnical Site and Environmental Conditions. Primarily, it is to ensure that the soil that we build on is not contaminated, and it is safe. Dolomite land in South Africa has proven to be particularly problematic, and this concern is reflected in this part of the building regulations.

Interestingly, definitions of both contaminated land and dolomite land were included when the regulations were altered in 2008. This followed a comprehensive report by the Department of Public Works Appropriate Development of Infrastructure on Dolomite: Guidelines for Consultants that was published in August 2003.

The New Definitions

This is the wording used in the building regulations:

Contaminated land means any land that, due to substances contained within or under it, is in a condition that presents an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of occupants of buildings constructed on such land.

Dolomite land means land underlain by dolomite or limestone rock directly or at a shallow depth less than:

a) 60 m in areas underlain by limestone;

b) 60 m in areas underlain by dolomite where no de-watering has taken place and the local authority has jurisdiction, is monitoring and has control over the groundwater levels over the areas under consideration; or

c) 100 m in areas underlain by dolomite where de-watering has taken place or where the local authority has no jurisdiction or control over ground water levels.

Protection of the Public

This section relates to the erection of fencing, hoarding or barricades that the local authority might require to protect the public from accessing a building site. If required, this must be safe (in keeping with the local authority’s requirements), and may not be removed without their approval in writing.

There are also regulations that relate to both erection and demolition activities on site. For instance builders may not encroach on adjacent land or on public space.

Damage to Local Authority’s Property

If a local authority believes that demolition or erection activities MIGHT affect local authority property adversely, it has the legal right to call for a deposit (or some other sort of security) that may be used to repair any damage caused.

Geotechnical Site and Environmental Conditions

Previously “Unstable Soil Conditions”, this section of the legislation has been substantial changed and is a lot longer than it used to be.

Previously the local authority simply had to inform anyone applying to build on suspect land that there might be a problem – specifically if it had reason to believe there might be “unstable subsoils or unstable slopes in the area in which a site, upon which a building is to be erected, is situated”. Clearly this was too vague.

The legislation now states that where a local authority “has reason to believe that a site upon which a building is to be erected” is:

  1. situated on contaminated land,
  2. situated on potentially unstable land where a risk could be reasonably foreseen, that ground movements caused by land-slip, slope stability or subsidence may impair the stability of the building or part of it, or pose a threat to the safety of future occupants of the building, or
  3. underlain by subsoils that have the potential to cause movement of foundations caused by swelling, consolidation, shrinkage or settlement, and as a result might impair the stability of the building (or part of it),

it must inform the person applying to build of the probable situation.

If the person applying to build IS aware of the fact that the land is either contaminated or potentially unstable, they are bound to “appoint an approved competent person to undertake an appropriate goetechnical site investigation”.

The definition of “competent person” also changed when the legislation was updated in 2008. Previously the term meant “a person who is qualified by virtue of his experience and training”. Now it means “a person who is qualified by virtue of his education, training, experience and contextual knowledge to make a determination regarding the performance of a building or part thereof in relation to a functional regulation or to undertake such duties as may be assigned to him in terms of these regulations. 

This person is required to determine – using accepted principles, methods and technical considerations:

  1. whether or not a building may be constructed or erected on the site, and if permission is granted, what conditions should be applied, and
  2. the magnitude of any potential and differential movements that the building (or part of it) might be subjected to.

Any geotechnical investigations should be conducted in accordance with the requirements of SANS 10400 Part B: Structural Design (in the case of dolomite lands) and Part H: Foundations.

Preparation of Site

Before any foundations may be laid, the area where the building is to be constructed must be properly cleared of all vegetable matter including tree stumps, timber and other cellulose material, as well as debris, refuse and any contaminated materials.

If the site is waterlogged, seasonally waterlogged (in other words not necessarily waterlogged all the time) or saturated with water, or where any building will be situated so that water will drain naturally towards it, drainage must be provided so that the water is directed away from the site or building to a storm water drain, or disposed of in another “safe approved manner”.

Soil Poisoning

The section was also expanded in 2008, and a reference to termites included. Essentially the regulations now insist on protection from subterranean termite activity if the local authority deems this to be necessary (which would be in areas of high termite infestation). Treatment must be in accordance with SANS 10124.

Control of Unreasonable Levels of Dust and Noise

Owners of land where excavation work is in progress, or where a building is being demolished or erected, must take precautions to limit the amount of dust that makes its way to surrounding roads and footways to a “reasonable level”.

Anyone involved in demolition, excavation and building work has to take care not to “unreasonably disturb or interfere with the amenity of the neighborhood”. Specifically there are times that they may not use any machine, machinery, engine, apparatus, tool or contrivance that is noisy or makes a lot of dust.

  • Before 6 am and after 6 pm any day of the week.
  • Before 6 am or after 5 pm on a Saturday.
  • On Sundays or public holidays.

Previously the legislation only applied to a handful of public holidays: Good Friday, Ascension Day, Day of the Vow, Christmas and New Years Day.

This prohibition is waived if the use of machines etc. is required urgently to:

  • preserve the life, safety or health of any person,
  • preserve property,
  • execute work on behalf of a public authority, or
  • the work has been authorized by the local authority.

Cutting Into, Laying Open and Demolishing Certain Work

This all-important section of the National Building Regulations specifies when a local authority can demand that building stops or a structure must be demolished.

This might be because the local authority believes that the work has not been carried out in accordance with the NBR, or because approval was not granted. If this is the case, the local authority must give notice in writing for the owner of the building to:

  • supply proof that the work is in accordance with the regs and/or it has the approval of the authority,
  • cut into, lay open or demolish the building (whatever the local authority deems fit),
  • insist that tests are carried out.

If tests have to be demanded, then the owner is obliged to supply a written report to the council that states (amongst other things) what was used for testing, who did the test, and what the results of the test were. If the officials are not satisfied, they may take further steps in terms of the regulations – possibly to insist on demolition.

Waste Material on Site

If owners of building sites allow excessive rubble, rubbish and other debris – or combustible waste material – to accumulate, they can expect to receive written notice to have it removed within a certain period. If they don’t comply, they will be regarded as being “guilty of an offence” and the local authority then has then right to remove the materials and make them pay the bill.

Cleaning of Site

This is essentially the same regulation that applies to waste material, only here the regulations refer to “surplus material and matter” that has accumulated on site, or on adjoining land or a public street.

Builder’s Sheds

Builder’s sheds are legal on building sites as long as they are properly maintained and only used for building purposes. When building ceases, the shed has to be removed. You can’t for instance, decide to keep the shed and use it for your garden tools.

Sanitary Facilities

It is against the law to do any demolition or construction work if there are no approved sanitary facilities for workers and other personnel. If sanitary facilities are not provided, the local authority can halt the building process.






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  1. I moved into a newly built Security complex. No mention was made in my contract of erection of a building 1.5m from my duplex. It is 5 months now that they are cutting, grinding causing dust and sparks fly around into my yard. Our cars are parked outside and they grond righ next to the cars. We had no written notice of any of this. There are hardly any health and safety on the “building site”, no access control, not to mention the noise pollution, the hours they work, etc. What am I to do, as I feel they are beaching our contract? Can Safety Insoectors come and inspect?

    • You can object to the trustees or body corporate (or whatever body is in charge of the complex) and contact the local authority and report them. You can also report them to the NHBRC. They should be registered, and if they aren’t, building work will be stopped immediately.

  2. Can you please tell me are builders allowed to work on Saturday in a residential area.
    Kind regards.
    T A Murray

  3. Are builders allowed to live on sight? Can the work 7 days a week in a suburb with little supervision regarding noise and dust to all neighbors.

    • Jon it seems to be common practise in some parts for workers to live on site while building is going on. But unless the building they are in is habitable and legal, you have every right to lay a complaint with your local authority and demand that they are removed. As far as noise, dust etc is concerned, you’re on the right page … if you scroll down to the sub-heading Control of Unreasonable Levels of Dust and Noise you will see exactly when they can work and when they can’t. You will probably have to lay a compliant in writing with the council for them to do anything about it.

  4. Magda Laubscher

    Great web page and all the necessary information.
    Please let me know what the law states on having a surveyor measuring and set out of actual points for building as well as to plan according to standards

    • If you are employing a qualified surveyor to do the work that person will now what to do. This website covers everything you need to know about planning according to standards. I encourage you to read our content.

  5. Hi I moved into an exclusive apartment block in Cape Town since August 2014. Since day 1 there has been renovations in numerous apartments. The BC sends out notes to all tenants stating start dates and end dates. However certain apartments have been building for over 17 weeks and I wish I could have one week without jack hammers and heavy machinery. I have been patient for over 19 weeks now. It never ends. I have also been sick with respiratory issues 4 times since November, due to dust, glues and varnish odors. are there any bylaws they need to follow. Please

  6. I am renting a building for office use. My landlord refusing to put a toilet for my secretary. Who can I contact. I live in Durban.

  7. Hi, we have open plots on either sides of our property and now both are under construction. Both have no toilet facilities and I am not sure what they are using . There also seems to be contractors staying on site but using the house that is under construction as a makeshift roof. There doesn’t seem to be any control of rubbish and rubble . I have complained to the local building inspector however , nothing seems to ever be done . Please could you advise what my next should be?

    • Nick go into the municipal offices and demand to see a more senior person and complain that the building inspector is not taking action. You could ask to see the town planner and/or the health inspector. The lack of toilet facilities alone is against the law apart from being a potential health hazard.

  8. Subject:
    Building on Sunday’s

    I live in a gated estate but on the boundary where the fence abuts a house being developed. The builders have been constructing using noisy machinery on Saturday’s and Sunday’s as well as public holidays. I have asked the Metro Police whether this is legal but didn’t get much interest from them. Who can I report the builders to for building on Sunday’s and Public Holidays as I believe that contravenes the National Building Regulations? The noise is a nuisance but having construction workers looking into our back yard over an entire weekend is an invasion of our privacy

    • Hi Justin, As you can see I have put your comment on the relevant page of our website namely Part F of the Building Regulations. It would seem that the police are not well up on certain laws. As you will see that it is THE LAW that NO building that will “unreasonably disturb or interfere with the amenity of the neighborhood” at these times: Before 6 am and after 6 pm any day of the week, Before 6 am or after 5 pm on a Saturday and on Sundays or public holidays. Most city by-laws in SA follow the Building Regulations and have the same times and restrictions as the Regulations. You can insist that the local building inspector tells them that they must stop immediately. Good luck. Please let us know the outcome so that we can help others.

  9. Hello there.
    Please advise which product is used to poison the soil against termites.
    Many thanks

  10. Christine Lines

    Thank you for the information about building noise and workings hours etc under Site Operations. I live next door to a residential property which is being renovated and the site has been busy for over 1 year and 4 months now. Today is Good Friday and the builders are busy with hammers and angle grinders yet again making life very miserable for the immediate neighbours. Who can I go to to make a complaint about this? I have approached the project manager in the past to show consideration but he is under pressure to finish the project. The frustration is when it is a public holiday and we have no chance of some peace! If I go to the Municipality and ask them to send an Inspector that can surely take several days and he wont come here on Good Friday!

    • Hi Christine, As I am sure you realise, you have no chance of getting the building inspector out this Easter weekend. Your only recourse this weekend would be to go to your local police station and lay a charge. I can’t see what part of SA you are in but almost all of the municipalities in SA have bye-laws for the control of noise in residential areas. They are certainly in contravention of the National Regulations. Sorry I can’t be of more help. I hope the rest of your weekend will be quiet and peaceful.

  11. rajnund rabilal

    Hi i want to add another room to my existing granny cottage….do i need to get another plan….How much would a plan drawer generally charge…Thank you

  12. We currently have people building next to us. The builders are all living on the site and sleeping there. They are constantly making a fire to cook food and smoking us out of our own house. Is this legal?

    • Colette, They can live on site provided there is a temporary structure that the council has approved for them to stay in. Report the situation to your local authority. You don’t have to live in substandard conditions!

  13. Hi There

    I have a strange question as it is somewhat of a debate now. What are the “normal” starting hours for construction in say a complex area and does a notification have to be put in the paper or do the neighbors have to be notified?

    • The hours are clearly stated in Part F, Site Operations. There is nothing that states that they need to advertise when they are planning to work, however this MAY be governed either by complex rules or in a local bylaw.

  14. Subject:
    Please can you help?

    Hi, i really am hoping you able to assist me. i am one of 5 residents
    who live alongside a area zoned GB1 (Property 12501 constantia village
    – cape town). We are being subjected to 6am early morning deliveries
    with large trucks making a racket Monday to Sunday 365. Please can you
    advise where i am able to get operating regulations for this GB1 type
    zone, any reference to operating hours, noise control etc would be
    most helpful!

    we have also noted the delivery truck are unable to access the
    delivery areas completely and as such delivery area gates cannot close
    making the offloading noise most annoying.

    i hope you able to assist, if not, thank for your taking the time to
    read this. Much appreciated.

    • Hi Wayne, The earliest that any business can start in any “residential” zone is 7am until 9pm the latest and must close at 2pm on Saturdays according to the bye-laws. There must be a rule that the council must have for this. I suggest you contact the City of Cape Town and ask their help. Please let us know the outcome so we can advise others, thanks.

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