Structural Design

All buildings must have a strong, serviceable,

stable and durable design-Part B

Why do you suppose we need structural design professionals to be involved in every aspect of building processes? I’ve thought about this often, since we’ve done a load of DIY projects that involve building, and we have seldom had professionals help us. But the point is that any building or structural element, however simple it may be, must be built in accordance with accepted principles of structural design. For instance we don’t just pile bricks on top of one another without sandwiching suitably mixed mortar between them – although I have visited an amazing home in Johannesburg where an architect totally defied this principle and built an incredible home on Linksfield ridge out of bricks sans mortar! But this is not the norm. Similarly, we don’t balance poles together like pick-up-sticks in the hope that they will stay in place.

The Role of the Regulations in Structural Design

As the national building regulations state:

“Any building and any structural element or component” must be designed to “provide strength, stability, serviceability and durability”.

It is also vital that buildings are designed so that if the structural system is in any way overloaded they won’t collapse with disastrous consequences.

The regulations also state that these design requirements shall be “deemed to be satisfied” when buildings are designed in accordance with this section of SANS 10400-Part B, namely Structural Design.

When I last accessed the SABS online to see if these section of the regs was available, it wasn’t. However, there is no doubt that it will ultimately list all the other standards that designers should refer to when undertaking structural design. UPDATE: This is now available from the SABS at a cost of R369.36

Structural Design must be in Accordance with National Standards

It is essential that all structural systems are designed and built by professionals. It is also essential that all materials used are suitable and SABS approved.

Some of the SANS that are used by structural designers are:

  • SANS 10100-1: The structural use of concrete (specifically Part 1: Design)
  • SANS 10162: The structural use of steel
  • SANS 10163: The structural use of timber
  • SANS 10164: The structural use of masonry

There are also various SANS that focus on the basis of structural design and actions for buildings and industrial structures. These relate to a variety of actions that are caused by self-weight and imposed loads, wind, seismic action, thermal elements, geotechnical elements, and even cranes and machinery.

Lastly, there are international standards that should also be followed, some of which are available from the SABS.




About Penny

Penny Swift is a highly regarded journalist and author of books relating to homes and construction.

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  1. usisipho mkangelwa

    The structural design talks about the way the building should be design to withstand all the overload,it must be built according to the excepted principle of structural design,also the building must be built by professionals and it must be stable

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this blog post. Indeed it is essential that accepted principles of structural design are followed and that professionals are employed. It worries me that sometimes people sidestep these vital issues!

  3. Hletela Mishiyi

    Structural design outlines the essential issues of how a building should be constructed in a manner that the building shall sustain any actions which can reasonably be expected to occur and in such a manner that any local damage cannot compromise the effective purpose of a building. Skilled professionals are required and they need to comply with the principles of structural design so that the function of the building can be utilised to the optimum.

  4. Penny,
    What would be the minimum requirements for a dwelling in the Limpopo province concerning the geo-technical assessment of the soil where the construction is planned?
    Would the structure design be influenced by the geo-technical information?
    Trust to hear from you soon,
    Best regards,


  5. It isn’t where the dwelling is to be built (e.g. Limpopo), but rather the soil and environmental conditions that are important. And essentially the requirements relate to safety. The structural design would definitely be affected by geo-technical information if the soil or subsoil is unstable – this could be due to the presence of dolomite, heaving clay, collapsing sand etc.
    The National Building Regulations state that it is the responsibility of the local authority to notify owners/builders (or the “competent person” who submits plans to build on a plot.). But of course anyone buying land should do some investigations prior to purchase, because unstable soil can add hugely to the cost of building.
    If there is unstable soil (or subsoil, or slopes) in the area, then a geotechnical site investigation will be required to ascertain whether the site may be built on at all – and if so, what steps must be taken to ensure the building will be safe and stable.

  6. Penny,
    In the case of a picnic spot being developed by a private entrepreneur, what will be the governing body that make decision on such cases. In the Limpopo province who would the best to sought advice in case of complication with structural design aspects for private dwellings.
    Thank you very much for your timely reply.
    Trust to hear from you soon,
    Best regarrds,


  7. Picnic spots are not covered in the building regulations!
    In terms of structural design aspects for private dwellings in Limpopo, you should start by contacting the local authority (or relevant municipality) in that particular area.

  8. Good day Penny,

    I am not in the building industry, but I do have a question regarding the structural integrity of dividing walls. We moved into a flat and this flat has a dividing wall between the laundry room and one of the bedrooms. It is clear that this wall was built in later and does not form part of the original structure. From what I can see, the wall is built on top of the cement floor and only to just below the ceiling. No “puzzle-like integration” (excuse my lack of better description) seems to exist between this dividing wall and the original walls on both its ends.

    My question is: Is this acceptable building practice? Is there any building regulation that states that this may or may not be done (in a residential building)? I am concerned about the structural integrity of this wall. Could you comment on this and point me to some document that addresses this issue?


  9. Jan-Hendrik, all walls in buildings should be on the plans submitted to council (or the municipality) and should show how they are meant to be built. You say this wall is built on a “cement floor” (it would be concrete – i.e. made with cement, sand and stone)… but is it built with bricks or blocks, or is it a dry wall? If built with bricks at a later stage, the question is whether the concrete base is sufficient to act as a foundation. The other question is whether the wall ties in with the other walls – this would be what you describe as “puzzle-like integration”. If it is in fact a freestanding wall, apart from the legality issue, it may not be a problem. But I can understand your concern.
    Do bear in mind that not all walls are load bearing.
    The National Building Regulations (see Part K: Walls of SANS 10400) cover all the specs for walls including both masonry (brick or block) and timber-framed (i.e. dry) walls. These include height, support, thickness etc. There is also a section on free-standing walls.
    Another issue is that the wall divides what you describe as a laundry room and bedroom. The NBRs are very strict when it comes to plumbing. It could be that a portion of what is now a bedroom was converted into a laundry … If so, I’d be worried about this.
    Perhaps you should have a look at some of the other flats in your block and see if they are configured in a similar way. If you are renting and are seriously concerned about the integrity of the wall, contact your local authority and ask if they can send a building inspector to look at the structure.

  10. Penny,
    I want to terrace about 11 metres of the bank in front of my Unit using Corobriks Geolok 300 retaining blocks. The slope of the bank is about 45 degrees. I want to use two rows of blocks – approx 400mm high, which will prevent soil erosion. The trustees have agreed to the installation of the blocks, but have requested that a certificate of stability from an engineer be produced before the work can commence. The contractor advises that this is not required as it is less than one metre high.
    Please provide me with guidance.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  11. Ravin if you required permission from the trustees (or body corporate) of your complex to build a retaining block wall, you will need to abide by their requirements. The National Building Regulations detail minimum requirements, but local authorities and individual complex owners/trustees etc have the right to demand additional steps be taken (including assurances from engineers on whatever it is they are concerned about). Corobrik may be able to supply you with some kind of certificate that would meet their needs, or advise who could supply this without you having to incur unnecessary expense.

  12. Please advise me, i have a single storey residentila house, but it does have a double stoery ready slab on the top. can i build a divider wall on the top of a certain room that does not have a matching wall on the bottom floor, will there be pressure on strain on the slab.
    Eg: the lounge on ground floor, i want to build two equal rooms in the equivelant space on the top floor
    please advise

  13. Rajan, you need plans to do anything. You CANNOT simply build unless plans have already been approved for additional construction work. This is primarily for safety reasons. So your next step should be to either contact someone who is “competent”, who can draw plans for you; or to contact your local authority.
    I can though say that you would be able to build walls on the slab that don’t “match” provided the slab can support these walls. But even if the wall continues above, if the slab cannot support the second-storey structure, you’ll have problems.

  14. Dear all,

    I have a community facility zoned stand and need to build a 500m² building for the community. Do I need an architect to draw up my plans or can I use a draughtsman? Will a 20×30 building need steel structure.

  15. The National Building Regulations state that all structural plans must be drawn up by a “competent person”. A qualified draughtsman is considered to be a competent person, provided of course this person has the skills to draw up plans for the structure concerned. Sometimes you might need an engineer.

  16. Hi Penny,
    Im an owner builder. From step one, which is drawing up my own plan, and which is my question.
    Why must i be a member of sacap to draw up a plan? My main concern is, they (sacap) are violating my constitutional rights, then also. If they are not involve in the approval of the plans at the local municipality, then why must i pay their fees and for what?
    The local municipality, do have their own quilified building inspectors (architects & engineers), whom you pay for their service. So why must you pay people (sacap) for service they did not rendered?
    Trust to hear from you soon,
    Best regards,

  17. Aubrey, You have to be a “competent person” in terms of the National Building Regulations (2008). This means that you have to be a qualified professional. If you are not a qualified professional, be it an architect, draughtsperson, architectural technologist etc, then you are not allowed – by law – to draw up your own plans. Further, the law states that such a person must be “registered in terms of a built environment professions council”. SACAP is the regulatory authority for the architectural profession and as such is responsible for providing for registration of persons within the architectural profession. It has absolutely nothing to do with your constitutional rights! If you are a qualified professional, you are bound by law to register with SACAP. “Only persons who are registered with SACAP may practice or render architectural services directly to the public. According to Section 18(2) of the Act, a person may not practise in any category unless registered with SACAP.” Payment to SACAP would be for registration and membership, not for services rendered.
    Prior to the new regs, owner builders could do their own plans, as could many unscrupulous builders who were ripping off the public. The new law is their primarily to protect the public and help to improve our construction industry as a whole.

  18. Very interesting, as a professional myself I totally understand the Law, but I recently had the case where I had to get a SACAB member to submit a plan for a carport, while I am a professional civil engineer, also registered with a professional body. I just thought that was taking it a bit far.

  19. Steph, as I understand the regs, you, as an engineer, are a “competent person” and so could have done the plans, provided you have the relevant training. The law does not specifically state members of SACAP are only allowed to draw plans. But I suppose not all engineers are “competent” to draw plans. By the same token, there are certain plans that MUST be drawn by engineers. I think there are times that people like you need to challenge the authorities. As you say “interesting”.

  20. What is a structural design professional?

  21. If I have a good computer program that enables me to draw plans, is that good enough?

  22. Peter-John, a structural design professional is someone who is qualified to design buildings and draw up plans in terms of the requirements of the National Building Regulations and SANS 10400.The South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) is the controlling body, so all structural design professionals must be members of SACAP to be able to practice.

  23. Is it mandatory to use an Architect? If not, how would I obtain the building plans?

  24. The National Building Regulations state that all building applications must be accompanied by a declaration by a person registered in terms of a “built environment professions council” (the main one being the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) in terms of how the applicable functional regulations will be satisfied (e.g. the complexity of the project, and site sensitivity in terms of the environment). This person will need to be sure that the plans have been correctly drawn up. Architects, draughtspersons, designers and architectural technologists are all qualified to draw plans.
    If you are referring to existing plans, these should be lodged at the offices of your local council, and you can usually get a copy of the plans from them. I am pretty sure that an architect doesn’t have to make the application for you.

  25. It might be, but you will have to have the endorsement of a registered professional since the NBR states that a “competent person” must oversee the project. So if you drew the plans, you’d have to pay a registered professional (e.g. an architect or draughtsman) to sign the plans and submit them on your behalf. It’s rather like a builder pulling in all the wiring for an electrical system; a qualified electrician will have to check that it is done correctly and sign of the job before the council will allow the wiring to be connected to the grid.

  26. I have been doing work in Lenasia, and was asked to erect a structure that was supplied to me. No soil tests were done but we were told to carry on. The client then brought an Engineer to site, as he didn’t know if the foundations we dug were right. The Engineer told us that he was satisfied with the dept and the width, but we have to put steel into the foundations. He then had another person there whom I don’t know, who said that in Lens they never put steel into the foundation. Then the steel were delivered. There are no drawings for the steel structure, although the supplier says that he can get an Engineer to give drawings. No drawings were submitted to the Local Government, and no approvals were obtained. We now have a problem with some of the structure and I need to speak to someone who can advise me what to do.

  27. It sounds to me as if the responsibility lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the engineer.

  28. Greetings Penny,

    Is it possible to build three houses on one foundation slab and declare them free hold? Give individual title deeds for each “structure” ?

  29. This is out of the realm of building regulations, apart from which anything like this – if possible – would have to go through a number of legal processes. A lawyer will have to answer your question.



  31. Johan there isn’t a section, as such, in the National Building Regulations that deals with thatch, but thatch is covered in Part L: Roofs. Specific sections that refer to thatch roofs include:
    The table for maximum truss spans for various rafter and tie-beam sizes (which you will see if you click on the link, above). Thatch is in the category Class B.
    The table for the number of connecting devices – also Class B. In addition, the regs state that the centre-to-centre spacing of trusses relevant to Class B covering should not exceed 760 mm.
    The table for maximum spans for rafters – again Class B.
    The table that gives minimum roof slopes and sheet end laps – which we haven’t included. Thatch with a thickness of 150 mm should have a MINIMUM slope of 45 degrees; and a thickness of 300 mm should have a slope of at least 35 degrees.
    Fire resistance and combustibility issues also apply. You will find these in Part T: Fire Protection of the NBR – a VERY lengthy document that was updated considerably in the recent amendments. e.g. If the thatched roof is bigger than 20 sq m the building must be located at least 4.5 m from the boundary (not the usual 2 m). Size also affects other elements including sprinkler systems. Municipalities also have regulations on thatched roofs – contact yours for their requirements.

  32. Johan I have updated the section on Roofs ( – including the tables. I have also added a section on thatch roofs.

  33. Henk van Niejenhuis

    Hi there,

    I was wondering, is there a differens between building a house on the
    sea edge and building somewhere in land? if so.. were can I find these
    regulations regarding to this matter? I am looking for what the
    differences are.

    Thank you,

    Kind regards,


  34. I bought a house from the developer, i gave the house plan but they
    didn’t build according to the approved plan, because the builder is
    not willing to solve the problem how can you help to solve this issue
    because am staying in the house that is not according to the approve
    plan . Please help.

  35. Kryska schilling

    Hi, I would like to know if you could help me. We have moved into a
    new house but the addition to the house(4th bedroom) is not up to
    standard. It’s going to be corrected but there is a dispute about the
    floor level. The current floor level is on the same level as the
    backyard. Does it need to be raised or is it fine like that?

    Please help.

    Thank you Kryska

  36. Hi Kryska,
    It’s impossible to tell just by this description. Your first step is to check the plans to see if the building was constructed according to the plans. Your local authority should be able to help in this regard (go to the planning department). The levels should be shown on the plans and these should relate to exactly where foundations for each level should be built. It sounds as if this is a sloping property?

  37. Hi Kryska,

    If the bedroom has direct access to the backyard, you will require a weatherstep in the order of 170mm. It may be less, if circumstances allow. You would then have to lower the yard level to suit.

    If the bedroom does not allow direct access to the backyard, the internal floor slab may be at the same level as the external yard (even lower), but there should be sound and proper waterproofing measures in place and the yard should be well drained in order to allow spontaneous storm water flows away from the structure. Best to contact a Professional Engineer to assist.

    Good luck


  38. Hi Sydney,
    You should contact the NHBRC, click this link >> “” << They might be able to help you IF the developer and builder are registered, which they should be by law. It seems to me that you have more of a contract problem than a building one. It all depends what was in the contract when you agreed to the contract terms. I suggest you read through this first.

  39. Henk, the National Building Regulations relate to all building in South Africa, but there are some specifications in terms of coastal structures versus those inland. Roofs are one area where there are differences. But there isn’t somewhere that you can refer to that details coastal versus inland. You will need to plough through the full Monty … or ask a “competent person” for advice.

  40. Franco Hanekom

    Good day Penny, Thank you for your replies to my earlier questions. I read in one of your posts that plans for open sided structures, like carports and verandas, are not necessary, although permission from your local authority is still a prerequisite. Can you confirm this or did I understand you wrong?

  41. Franco, the legislation (The National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act) defines minor building work – which does not require plans. Have a look at the link I have given you here. It doesn’t mention verandahs (these are usually part of the structure of the house), but “open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size” are considered minor building work.
    The Act also says: “Any building control officer may in respect of the erection of a building defined in the national building regulations as a minor building work, in writing-
    (a) exempt the owner of such building from the obligation to submit a plan in terms of this Act to the local authority in question for approval;
    (b) grant authorization for the erection of such building in accordance with the conditions and directions specified in such authorization.”
    So you don’t need plans but you need “permission”.
    SANS 10400 is very clear that minor building work must comply with the NBR.
    There is commentary on minor building work in Part A of SANS 10400 (this has not been changed – so if you download the old SANS 10400 (1990) from our downloads page you can read all three paragraphs – pages 45-46). The first para says:
    “The term “minor building work” was intended to cover certain building work which, because of either its nature or magnitude (or both), was such that it would not be necessary to submit full plans or, in certain cases, where no plans or any other documents would be required. The implication is that where no plans are required, the building does not have to comply with the National Building Regulations since, without plans, there is no means of assessing an application. It is, however, necessary in all cases that an application be submitted to the local authority so that it is aware that the work is proposed and it can set conditions in those cases where it is considered necessary to invoke at least some of the National Building Regulations to control the proposed building work.”

  42. How do I find out the recommended spans of timber for building a deck structure? what could a 38 x 114 span between posts?

  43. We are neither architects nor engineers Edward and the Building Regulations are not a design manual. They simply give very basic guidelines. Although the discussion of building with timber has been included in these latest building regulations, I am not aware of anything that deals with deck structures as such.
    We did a book on Decks & Patios some years ago, and one of the projects was a deck built on a slope next to a swimming pool. It was built by a professional who used 144 mm x 44 mm timber for beams and joists – and the span between posts was no more than 3 m. So if you are using less sturdy beams, you’ll have to reduce the span considerably. An engineer will be able to advise further.

  44. Thanks for your prompt response – I will try see if I can find an engineer who could help.

  45. Could you please tell me where I can find out what specific school building regulations entails? I need to know what the height of the windows should be drom the floor.

  46. Hi Karin,
    There are no height restrictions regarding the window sill height above the floor. The only stipulation is that the glass below 500mm above floor level must be safety glass. Whoever designs a building does the design according to what the building is to be used for as well as the clients specifications.

  47. Hi all,

    I have just had a house built, on a gentle slope, clay soil, thick floating foundations. All to engineers specification. My question is, most houses have a concrete or tile apron around the house( a splash guard?) My foundations were backfilled, do i need one or does the law require one, as my builder says i do not, yet i feel that this is a pre requisite as severe highveld storms genersate a lot of water flow and i worry that this may erode under the foundations over time. Please help


  48. Greg, since your house was built (with approved plans – I presume) according to an engineer’s specification, unless this was part of the specification (which would, by law, have been included in the plans that were submitted to council), then your builder is correct. However, if you want some sort of protective “apron” around your house, that is your prerogative. In any event, if it was not specified in the approved plans, you can expect to be charged extra for the work and materials.

  49. What is the distance between the fence and a storm water drain?

  50. I’m in the process of building a braairoom at my house – we’re about 2/3rds along the way – but a sticky point has now come to the fore between myself and the builder re some structural elements.

    We followed the correct procedure in getting plans drawn up, getting it approved by the local authorities etc. The builder then went ahead building strictly according to the plans.

    Unknowingly to me (I have no knowledge of the industry), the height of the ceiling specified on the plan (2.4m) does not allow for a minimum of 4 courses of brickwork above the sliding doors (3m). After the builder completed the brickwork and was about to start with the roof – a friend of mine (who is an architect) pointed out this structural issue when she saw photos of the “progress of the braairoom”.

    I pointed this out to the builder, who in turn dismissed the issue and decided to carry on – saying that his engineer will sign it off.

    Long story short – his engineer is now also not willing to sign it off; and the builder simply stands by his case that he “simply followed the approved plan”.

    My main question is: Is a builder not expected (by law) to follow the National Building Regulations above all else? Who is ultimately responsible for the problem I am now having?

    Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.



  51. Hi there

    Where would i find info on building codes relating to alternative building methods such as cobb, earthbag and straw bale


  52. George there are no building codes as such that relate to alternative building methods. To build using one of the methods you need an agreement certificate, which is an official certificate that confirms fitness-for-purpose of a non-standardised product, material or component or the acceptability of the related non-standardised design and the conditions pertaining thereto (or both) issued by the Board of Agrément South Africa. There will, of course, be a number of standard techniques and products that you will use – e.g. plumbing, roofing etc and for these you will have to comply to the various parts of SANS 10400.
    In any event, you will also need a competent person to draw the plans and submit these to both Agrement SA and then your local authority for approval.

  53. Ruan, Both the person who drew up your plans and the local authority are equally liable – probably more so that the builder. However, while he thinks he is safe using the approved plan as his “excuse”, the very fact that you drew his attention to the “error” prior to completion, PLUS the fact that he said his engineer would sign it off, increase his liability in my opinion.
    FYI: In the part of 10400 that deals with Roofing, it clearly states that four courses of brickwork are required below the trusses to accommodate the wire or strapping. See these drawings: four bricks
    There is also a comment that relates to this HERE.
    I believe it is the builder’s responsibility to get an engineer’s signature. If you haven’t already paid him in full, don’t do so until you have the signature. As it stands you might find yourself having to rectify the build. Having said this though, you should have comeback on the council for approving the plans. Make sure you keep all the documentation.

  54. ZaJObe, this varies. Contact your local authority for clarity.

  55. Subject:

    I just want to find out if is normal for a four months old houes to
    have cracks

  56. Hi Moses, It depends on how many and how big the cracks are. It is “normal” for a house to “settle” after building and for a few minor cracks to appear. If they are quite big then it could be cause to worry. There are many factors that can contribute to this happening. Local council building inspectors are under a lot of pressure these days and I do not think that they would have time to come out and do an inspection. There are private companies that do house inspections for a fee. The NHBRC does cover any defect due to faulty building by one of the registered builders.

  57. I have just been registered as a Pr.Eng.Tech.
    Do I need to register with NHBRC?

  58. Hi Charlie, It is only building contractors that must register with the NHBRC. The other professions must be registered (up to date) with their own organisations, these registration numbers/details are then used on all design submissions to councils and to the NHBRC.

  59. Good Morning

    My neighbour built a structure out of steel and gavalnised zinc on the boundary wall without plans and my permission. We reside in the Northcliff area in Johannesburg. I had council out and they have indicated that the structure is fine and does not require plans. I measure the area and its above 10M2 about 11.8M2. I have now formally sent them an e-mail indicating such but have as yet not heard back from them. What i want to know is:

    1. How can i force the issue with regards plans?
    2. Would this structure be considered permanent as its concreted into the ground and has paving as a floor?
    3. My understadnign is that under the SANS 10400 is an engineering certificate not required?
    4. How can i sastify myself that these have been done and if not would i have a case to have this removed?

    Look forward to hearing from you.

  60. Hi Dominique, If you have already had the council out to inspect and they say it is ok then there is not much more that you can do. Please have a look at our page that defines “minor building work” and you will see that the maximum size for a carport is 40 sq meters.

  61. Vanessa White

    Hi, could anyone please give me information relating to cob house building regulations in South Africa?

  62. The regs are the same – i.e. you need to follow the National Building Regulations – but you also need an agrement certificate as per Part A of SANS 10400 – General Principles & Requirements

  63. Hello. I wanted to know is the bylaw of builiding a permanent structure using shipping containers? thanks

  64. You will need to follow the National Building Regulations as far as possible, and also have an agrément certificate that confirms fitness-for-purpose of a non-standardized product, material or component or the acceptability of the related non-standardized design and the conditions pertaining thereto (or both) issued by the Board of Agrément South Africa. Part A of SANS 10400 covers this.
    It states:
    A4 Local Authority may Require Additional Documents and Information
    (9) (a)
    Where a local authority is not satisfied as to the adequacy or safety in use of any construction system, method, material, article or product which is proposed to be used in the erection of any building the local authority may require a test report or evaluation certificate in respect thereof.
    (b) the grade of material of all members;
    (c) the details of all connections between members;
    (d) the details of the corrosion protection to be provided; and
    (e) the details of reinforcement provided, including its strength and composition.
    (b) Any documentation contemplated in paragraph (a) shall be accompanied by a certificate signed by an approved competent person in which he shall certify that any apparatus to be installed has been designed to provide a standard of ventilation which complies with these Regulations.
    (b) On submission to such local authority of ––
    (i) an applicable report issued by the council or the CSIR; or
    (ii) any current Agrément certificate,
    the adequacy or safety of such system, method, material, article or product covered by such report or certificate shall be deemed to satisfy any relevant requirement for adequacy or safety prescribed in these Regulations, to the extent and under the conditions set out in such report or certificate.
    (c) A report or certificate contemplated in paragraph (a), issued on or after the date of coming into operation of these Regulations, shall contain the number of the Regulation which prescribes such requirement.
    The calling for test reports or Agrément certificates involves additional expenses and it is therefore important that this sort of information should only be required where it is really necessary and that, where it is required, it has been established that it will in fact give sufficient information to enable the local authority to decide whether or not to approve an application. In this connection it should always be remembered that where doubt exists, it is the building owner (or the designer appointed by him) who is responsible for proving to the satisfaction of the local authority that an application complies with the Regulations. It is not the local authority’s responsibility to prove that it does not comply.

    & another excerpt:
    Agrément certificates represent an entirely different approach. The original intent of the Agrément certificate was to present as complete an assessment as possible of any new building system, building component or building material, in addition to indicating whether it was considered suitable for use. The certificates also state which of the National Building Regulations, if any, the system or component may be deemed to satisfy.
    It should be noted that although test reports may be adequate to supply the information that a local authority might need to assess an application, the Agrément certificate serves an additional, very important, purpose in that it provides more information of a type which might be useful to anyone buying or promoting a new building system or building component. In addition, the Agrément certification process requires that certificate-holders have an acceptable and functioning quality management system in place, thereby providing assurance of consistency of quality of the end product.

  65. Hi there

    What are the rules re coverage of a property. We have already built on 50% of our property, does that rule still apply as we would like to build a garage with a room above..?

  66. Chris it depends on the zoning bylaws – and varies. 60% is common, but check with your local authority. You would, in any case have to have approved plans to be able to build a new structure.

  67. I’M buying an “Agricultural/Residential” Property in Chartwell, Johannesburg.
    The property includes a building ( Small House) that was erected in 1968.
    The Drawing supplied to me were fund are not been registered with the local council.
    I have request the seller to register the drawing and to add the small buildings that are not in the original drawing, but he refuse to do so at his cost.

    It is not a law requirement in this country to have the building legal before be able to sale it?
    Where can I find the regulation of this problem
    Thank you

  68. I am not aware of any law relating to selling houses as you suggest (viz ensuring the building is legal in terms of plans). It is however illegal to build a house without plans. Technically the local council could demand that the house be demolished if there are no plans – alternatively “as built” plans may be registered. You could approach the council and see what their attitude is. As things stand now, if the seller refuses to update the plans, I guess your choice is to bear the costs yourself, or cancel the deal – and notify the council of the situation.

  69. Hi!
    I currently own property in a residential area, there is an existing house on the property, I want to demolish the house and build flats on the property. I would like to know what the procedure is. Assistance will be appreciated. Thank you

  70. You will firstly have to find out from your local council planning department if it is possible to increase the density of dwellings on the property. Once you know that you can make application to demolish the existing building/s. You will then have to get town planning approval for the project first. This should involve the approval of all affected neighbours in the area. Town planning will need to see sketch plans of the proposed flats. then you will have to get final plans done by an architect or competent person and then get those submitted for approval.

  71. Johann Olivier

    I am interested in creating a home from refurbished shipping containers. What are the regulations regarding this type of design, and are there any standards which must be complied with?

  72. I want to build a block of flats behind my current property. I want to know the prescribed room size with an en-suite toilet and shower, a sink and sink kitchen cabinet.


  73. Good day

    I want to start my portfolio and I want to be as accurate as possible. I heard once that there are rules and regulations regarding how close a door should be to a window and how close a window should be to a toilet. I really want these kind of specifics rather than doing plans that are useless. Also, door and window schedules, my engineer tells me that they are made designed but it sounds unlikely. Is there a medium that offers this broad spectrum information or will it be independently windows, doors, roofs & trusses, plumbing etc. each in its own file?

    Help will be much appreciated.

  74. Please advise if possible where I can find the rules and regulations with regards to building a container home in Cape Town.

  75. Nigel there are no rules and regs specific to container homes in South Africa. Part A of SANS 10400 mentions the Agrément certificate required for non-standard buildings.
    It is a “certificate that confirms fitness-for-purpose of a non-standardized product, material or component or the acceptability of the related non-standardized design and the conditions pertaining thereto (or both) issued by the Board of Agrément South Africa”.
    In turn, the Board of Agrément South Africa is a body that operates under the delegation of authority of the Minister of Public Works. However I am not sure of its current status.
    All I can suggest is getting hold of the Dept of Public Works. Alternatively any competent person should be able to help you.

  76. If you are embarking on a career in building, I suggest you buy a copy of SANS 10400 from the SABS. There is also ample information on this web site which you are welcome to read. Our book on Owner Building also has lots of information.

  77. Minimum dimensions for rooms, as well as the minimum height of rooms, are specified in Part C: Dimensions of SANS 10400.

  78. All the usual regs apply, but for non-standardised materials and designs you need an agrement certificate. According to Part A of SANS 10400:
    An agrément certificate confirms fitness-for-purpose of a non-standardized product, material or component or the acceptability of the related non-standardized design and the conditions pertaining thereto (or both) issued by the Board of Agrément South Africa which is a body that operates under the delegation of authority of the Minister of Public Works

  79. We are in the process of buying a smallholding in KZN Midlands. The main dwelling is approximately 30 years old and at that time it was not compulsory to submit building plans on an agricultural property. We took occupation 5 months ago and the transfer is still not registered as the seller has had issues with his rates settlement as he has still not submitted the As Built plans which were drawn 8 months ago. These plans were drawn up as Concrete Block under IBR and the bank approved our Bond as Concrete Block under IBR. We have only recently discovered that the house is actually a wooden house which was wrapped with chicken wire and plastered with cement. I believe a wattle and daub type structure. The house creaks a lot! Would you suggest we go ahead with this transfer IF the municipality approves the As Built plans or try to cancel the sale? Thank you

  80. Hi Kerry, That method of construction used by the timber frame industry for many years does have SABS approval so is not quite wattle-and-daub, but is a cost effective way of building. I am surprised that the bank did not send a “competent person” to properly inspect the property before investing their money. I know it was some time ago but if you can try to find out who the builder was then you can get more info and put your mind at ease. You could also contact the Timber Frame Association and they should be able to give you the specs and builders names, their website:

  81. My neighbour has built a very high (approx 3 m) tree house on my boundary wall .
    He did not ask my permission at all , so i have filed a complaint with the Cape Town Municipality.
    They have come back saying that it needs to be 3.5m away from the street, which it is definitely not, but did not mention the height restriction .
    As this is a wooden structure on stilts and it overlooks my bedroom window is this legal ?..

  82. Hi Anthea, You must get the inspector to come out and make the call on this one. A tree house would be classed as “minor building work” that the council need it be told about it in writing by the owner. Another factor is that any structure on a boundary cannot have windows overlooking a neighbours property in that facing wall. Please keep in touch and let us know what happens.

  83. I live in pietermaritzburg. I want to erect an un-walled high roof (trusses and tiled verandah area. If the structure is attached to the main house do i need to have approved plans.
    When do I need plans for a garage, double carport or lap?

  84. Trevor you may not need plans if the structure meets the specifications of minor building work. Check this link. Garages do need plans.

  85. own a property in KZN Northern Berg region am planning on building a timber /log house, are there any specs i must adher to

  86. All the National Building Regulations are relevant.

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