Entrance:  Houses by ENDesigns Architectural Studio

​How to get your building plans approved in Johannesburg

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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All homeowners have the right to the ‘proper enjoyment of their property’ – but that does not mean they are allowed to build and break as they please! 

In fact, even alterations which you may consider small (like building a swimming pool, erecting a new wall around your house, or changing the internal configurations of your rooms) could require approval from the authorities. 

But don’t be alarmed – homify is here to assist you when it comes to getting those building plans approved.

1. What building plans need approval?

3 Bedroom Duplex:   by Peridot Architects
Peridot Architects

3 Bedroom Duplex

Peridot Architects

Any new building and any alteration that adds on or changes the structure of an existing building (whether that be a residential house or an office building) must first be provided to the City's (Planning) Development Management Department for approval. This also includes add-ons like swimming pools.

2. What are the submission requirements?

Certain building plan submission requirements will need to be followed to get your plan(s) submitted for approval. These can be retrieved from your local municipality, where you can also get the building plan application form. 

The documents that you’ll require for your building plan application form will depend on the type of submission.

3. Copies of plans application form

Modern double storey family house:  Houses by Ndiweni Architecture
Ndiweni Architecture

Modern double storey family house

Ndiweni Architecture

When you go in person to make a request at your municipality, you’ll need copies of the plans application form. In addition: 

• You must attach your identity document and your municipal rates account to the form, and 

• Pay the prescribed fee. Contact your municipality for more info on these fees. 

Should you not be able to go in person and would rather send a representative to make the request on your behalf, your representative will require a permission letter of consent. Your representative must also produce their ID when they submit the copies of plans application form.

4. What if my building plans don’t get approval?

This could become a very costly mistake for which you will be responsible. A building inspector who happens to pass your property while the building takes place may ask to see the stamped approval building plans. If you are not able to produce these, the project could be halted right there.

The inspector could even get a court order to demolish the structure, and you will be charged for the cost as well as the legal fees. In serious cases, you could be fined or even sent to prison.

And if you try to sell your house and the prospective buyer asks to see the approved plans, your mistake could also come back to haunt you.

5. Why should I use a professional?

To help streamline the entire process of building, it is imperative that you appoint an architect or designer that is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP). You can find a list of registered professionals at www.sacapsa.com

The architect will get hold of your property’s previous plans from the council, plus a copy of your Surveyor General (SG) diagram and Zoning Certificate. The SG diagram is important for marking your property’s boundaries/area and neighbouring stands. The Zoning Certificate is useful for informing you what type of zone your property is i.e. agricultural, business, residential 1, 2 or 3.

6. What other approval is necessary prior to submission?

Approval and stamps from the following are required: 

1. Fire department (if your property is zoned as business, commercial or special use, or if you are building with thatch or timber frame construction); 

2. Water / sewage department (If you are applying for building line relaxation, constructing a new house/building, or undergoing big renovations); 

3. If you are applying for building line relaxation, approval from the Roads / Transportation department is also needed; 

4. Environmental health (if your property is zoned as agricultural, business, commercial or special use). 

Keep in mind that certain regions and areas require that your home is also energy efficient, which stipulates that at least 50% of your hot water is generated from solar powered geysers or heat pumps. Rather check with your municipality or Council on this.

7. What do I need for plan submission?

1. Three copies of the building plans (2-colour printing)

2. Your application form 

3. A SACAP (South African Council for the Architectural Profession) registration form 

4. Title deed of your house (These usually have restrictive clauses within them and could affect the outcome of your building plan application. They can be obtained from your transferring attorney, the bank, or the deeds office). 

5. Applicable stamps like fire department, environmental health, etc.  

6. Engineer certificate of appointment / completion (only applicable if your building is under construction / finished; you are constructing a new house/building; your plans indicate concrete floor/roof slabs, wooden floors, Juliet balconies, steel construction, timber frame construction and cellars; your stand is located on a slope or has poor soil quality). 

7. If applicable, a permission letter and stamp from body corporate / aesthetics committee. 

8. If you are applying for building line relaxation, you will need a letter from town planning for consent, rezoning, etc. 

9. If applicable, an approved updated Site Development Plan (SDP). 

10. Plan submission and/or courier fees. 

11. A power of Attorney that provides permission to your architect or courier to act on your behalf to gain building plan approval. 

12. Energy efficiency calculations of your home. 

13. Lighting layout that stipulates energy consumption and demand calculations. 

14. Water layout. 

15. Heritage approval stamp and letter (if your home is older than 60 years). 

16. Surveyor General diagram, an aerial photograph, contour map and zoning certificate. 

17. Lots of patience! This is a lengthy process and will not happen overnight.

8. The right professionals for your renovation project

clovelly road, Greenside:   by Form Add Function
Form Add Function

clovelly road, Greenside

Form Add Function

Johannesburg-based renovation firm Form Add Function are in the know when it comes to architectural designs in the greater Johannesburg area. As they are committed to top-notch designs and high-quality results, they are fully aware that each project holds its own unique mark. That is why each project brief is approached organically, allowing the site/land or existing structure to dictate the way it wants to unfold. This, in turn, helps to communicate the needs and requests of the owners / clients.  

Although architectural services form a big part of their day-to-day work, Form Add Function also provide a wide variety of services given the type of project and level of expertise required. These include architectural draughting designers, interior designers, and creative directors.

We feel this is the perfect opportunity to check out Tips from the pros: The house maintenance checklist you need in Pretoria.

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