Getting Building Plan Approval

Approving building plans first requires the appointment of a SACAP registered architect/designer. SACAP refers to the South African Council for the Architectural Profession. You can find a list of registered professionals at You may not legally gain approval of a building plan through de-registered, independent architects.

For building plan approval, the appointed architect must get previous plans from the Council. They must also get a copy of your SG (Surveyor General) diagram and Zoning Certificate. The SG diagram clearly demarks your properties boundaries / area and neighbouring stands. The Zoning Certificate will tell you what the zone use of your property is. These include agricultural, business, commercial, residential 1, 2 or 3 and Special Use. Residential 2 or 3 usually indicates a property in a cluster/townhouse development. This documentation is necessary for approving building plans.

Building Lines

The building lines are, in essence, invisible lines on your property. They demarcate the point up to which you can build. Garden and boundary walls are not included. Typically, building lines are 5m at the front, 2m at the sides and 3m at the back. But, building lines vary from street to street and it’s best not to make assumptions.

It is possible to relax set building lines, for which you will need your neighbours consent. You will also need approval from the Municipal Town Planning Department. Unfortunately, Town Planning Departments are notoriously understaffed. Thus, it is best to use the services of a town planner or architect with contacts. This is unecessary for the approval of a building plan, if you do not intend to change building lines.


Coverage refers to the building’s footprint on the stand. In other words, it details percentage of the stand covered by the roof. In SA, Paving, Driveways, swimming pools, and boundary walls do not count towards coverage in SA. Coverage is typically 50% for a single or double storey dwelling/building and 40% for a three storey building.

Floor Area Ratio

F.A.R, or Floor Area Ratio, is the percentage living space allowable on the stand. So, bedrooms, lounges, kitchens, servant’s 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.

Title Deeds for Approval of a Building Plan

For building plan approval, you will also need to get a copy of the title deeds if you don’t already have a copy. This is not only to confirm that you are the owner of the property, though. Title deeds also usually have restrictive clauses within them. This could affect the outcome of approving building plans! Title deeds state whether there is a 2m servitude on two boundaries other than a street boundary. Further restrictions such as prohibiting metal roofs or wooden buildings are also common. You can get title deeds from your transferring Attorney or the Deeds Office. You may also get it from the bank if there is a mortgage on your house. Title deeds are absolutely essential in the approval of a building plan.

You can get Restrictive Clauses within a title deed removed. This involves an application through the Town Planning Department. You can also gain consent for extra coverage/FAR. But, this is a lengthy process, and we strongly recommend that you use a Town Planner.

Town Houses, Clusters, and Complexes

Your property may be within an estate or town house/cluster complex. If so you will also need to get a copy of the Estate Guidelines for building plan approval. You can get this from the Aesthetics Committee, Body Corporate, or Residents Association. You will find a list of requirements that ensure aesthetic harmony. You can also find such a list for good building practice within the estate/complex. For approving building plans, you will need to adhere to these requirements. Additionally, you will need your plans stamped. You will also a letter from the Body Corporate for Council stating that they are happy with your planned building.

Other Requirements for Approving Building Plans

Approval of a building plan also requires an appointment from a registered Structural Engineer. They can provide you with a completion certificate upon successful inspection. This is necessary if:

1.) Your building is under construction / finished. 2.) You are constructing a new house / building. 3.) Your plans show concrete floor, roof slabs, wooden floors, or Juliet Balconies. They must also show steel constructions, timber frame construction, and cellars if necessary. 4.) Your stand has poor soil quality or is on a slope.

For building plan approval, you will need to submit it for approval to the following:

1.) Fire Department. For properties zoned for business, commercial, special use. Or, if you plan to build with thatch or timber frame construction. 2.) Water/Sewerage department. if you are applying for Building Line Relaxation, or proposing a new house/building. This also applies if you plan 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.

New regulations enforced in September 2012 that you must adhere to for approval of a building plan. They state that your home must be energy efficient. It also stipulates you must generate at least 50% of your hot water from solar powered geysers or heat pumps.

It is crucial that your Architect/Designer do their homework before drawing up plans. This will save a lot of time and expense later on, and ensure building plan approval.

So for Plan Submission and approving building plans, you will need –

1.) 3 Copies of the building plans – 2 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. They authorise your Architect/Courier to act on your behalf for the approval of a building plan.

12.) Energy Efficiency Calculations for your home.

13.) Lighting Layout with Energy Consumption & Demand Calculations

14.) Water layout.

15.) Heritage Approval Stamp and Letter if your home is more than 60 years old.

16.) SG (Surveyor General) Diagram, Aerial Photograph, Contour Map and Zoning Certificate.

17.) Patience

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