Getting Building Plans Approved In South Africa

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Getting Building Plans Approved in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is vitally important to appoint a SACAP (South African Council for the Architectural Profession) registered Architect/Designer. A list of registered professionals can be found at In order to practice as an Architect or Designer it is compulsory to register with SACAP. It is illegal to practice architecture without being registered with SACAP. The Architect will get previously approved plans from the Council and a copy of your SG (Surveyor General) diagram and Zoning Certificate

The SG diagram clearly remarks your properties boundaries / area and neighbouring stands. The Zoning Certificate will tell you what the zone use of your property is - agricultural, business, commercial, residential 1, 2 or 3 and Special Use. Residential 2 or 3 indicates that your property is in a cluster / townhouse development.

The Zoning Certificate will also give information on building lines, coverage and FAR (Floor Area Ratio). Building Lines are invisible lines on your property remarking up to where you can build - garden / boundary walls are not included. Normally building lines are 5m at the front, 2m at the sides and 3m at the back. Please bear in mind that Building Lines vary from street to street and it is best not to make assumptions. Building Lines can be relaxed - you will need your neighbours consent and Town Planning approval. As Town Planning Departments are notoriously understaffed it is best to use the services of a town planner or architect with contacts. Coverage is the Building footprint on the stand - in other words what percentage of the stand is covered by a roof? Paving, Driveways, swimming pools and boundary/garden walls do not count towards coverage in SA.

Coverage is usually 50% for a single or double storey dwelling / building and 40% for a three storey building. F.A.R - Floor Area Ratio is the percentage living space allowable on the stand - so bedrooms, lounges, kitchens, staff quarters etc. will count, but garages, covered patios, lapas, sheds, swimming pools and store-rooms etc. do not. F.A.Rs vary between 0.3 - 1.2. A low F.A.R - 0.6 for example - will effectively ensure that the first floor is smaller than the ground floor in a double storey building.

You will need a copy of the title deeds to submit plans in SA; this is not only to confirm that you are the owner of the property, but also because title deeds have restrictive clauses within them; this could affect the outcome of your building plan application. Title deeds normally indicate that there is a 2m servitude on two boundaries other than a street boundary or pan-handle. Further restrictions such as prohibiting metal roofs or wooden buildings are also common. Title Deeds can be obtained from your transferring Attorney, the bank (if your property is mortgaged) or the Deeds Office.

Restrictive Clauses within a Title Deed can be removed - this involves an application through the Town Planning Department. Consent can also be granted for extra coverage / F.A.R. However this is a lengthy process and I recommend that you use a Town Planner. If your property is within an estate or town house / cluster complex you will also need to get a copy of the Estate Guidelines from the Aesthetics Committee / Body Corporate / Residents Association etc. You will find a list of requirements that ensure Aesthetic harmony and good building practice within the estate / complex.

In addition you will need your plans stamped and a letter from the Body Corporate for Council indicating that they approve your planned building. If your property is zoned Residential 2 or 3 then you will need to submit a Site Development Plan (SDP) to Council before your plans can be approved. An Appointment / Completion Certificate from a registered Structural Engineer together with stamps on the plans is required if -

1.) Your Building is under construction / finished.

2.) You are constructing a new house / building.

3.) Your Plans indicate - concrete floor / roof slabs, wooden floors, Juliet Balconies, steel construction, timber frame construction and cellars.

4.) Your stand has poor soil quality or is on a slope. Prior to plan submission you will need approval and stamps from the following -

1.) Fire Department - if your property is zoned business, commercial, special use or if you are building with thatch or timber frame construction.

2.) Water / Sewerage department - if you are applying for Building Line Relaxation, proposing a new house / building or doing major renovations.

3.) Roads / Transportation Department - if you are applying for Building Line Relaxation.

4.) Environmental Health - if your property is zoned agricultural, business, commercial or special use. It is vitally important that your Architect / Designer do their homework before drawing up plans. This will save a lot of time and expense later on. For Plan Submission you will need - 1.) 2 Copies of the building plans -

1 colour.

2.) Application Form

3.) SACAP Registration form

4.) Title Deed

5.) Fire Department/ Environmental Health / Roads / Water stamps etc. if applicable.

6.) Engineer Certificate of Appointment / Completion - if applicable.

7.) Permission letter and stamp from Body Corporate / Aesthetics Committee etc. if applicable.

8.) Letter from Town Planning for Building Line Relaxation, Consent, Rezoning etc. if applicable.

9.) Approved updated SDP (Site Development Plan) if applicable.

10.) Plan Submission / Courier Fees.

11.) Power of Attorney authorising your Architect / Courier to act on your behalf in respect of gaining building plan approval. 12.) Patience. For more information check out our website or call +27 82 399 018

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