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What you need to know before starting with additions or alterations to your building. 


In general, the National Building Regulations are not retroactive in their application. This means that if you are adding to or altering a building, you won’t have to ensure that the entire building complies with new regulations that have been imposed since the building was originally erected.

This will be of particular interest to people who are concerned about the implications of the new energy efficiency legislation and regulations. 

But if you need plans for any additions or alterations, then you will need to ensure that the new section of the building complies.

Part A of SANS 10400, General Principles and Requirements, deals with alterations and additions.

This part of the National Building Regulations states that where an application is made to make an alteration or addition to any building that was approved before this version of the Building Regulations and Standards Act (i.e. prior to 2008):

The  alteration must comply with the requirements of the Act, but “consequent changes to any other part of the building which would be necessary in order to make such other part comply with the requirements of the Act shall not be required unless in the opinion of the local authority such consequent changes are necessary to ensure the health or safety of persons using the building in the altered form”

The addition must comply with the requirements of the Act, “but no changes to the original building shall be required unless the addition :

will affect the structural strength or stability of the original building;

will render any existing escape route from the original building less effective; or

will affect the health of persons using the original building.

Problems May Occur When Adding to Older Buildings.

In addition to the above, the lawmakers are aware that problems might arise when alterations or additions are carried out on buildings that were erected in compliance with earlier building by-laws.

In the case of such an addition, the local authority (which is of course the body that will approve any plans that might be required for such addition or alteration) might decide to treat the new portion as an entirely separate part. If this happens, then the alterations will have to be designed to comply with the National Building Regulations “without having any effect on the original portion of the building”.

This is not likely to happen often with alterations, though the local authority will decide “to what extent that part of the building which is not to be altered should comply with the National Building Regulations”. Generally, they will be more stringent when it comes to the application of fire regulations (Part T, Fire protection), and particularly when it comes to escape route requirements. Since this doesn’t affect “dwelling houses”, it is unlikely to have any effect on residential buildings.

The regulations state: “It is obvious that a pragmatic and essentially practical approach is necessary.”

Their primary concern is the health and safety of those people using the building. But they advise local authorities that any decisions “should be within the context of what might be practical and economically sound in an old building. If an owner or entrepreneur cannot alter a building to suit his purpose at a cost that will enable him to have a reasonable economic return, he will probably not alter the building at all. This could lead to the perpetuation of a situation that might be dangerous but one which is in compliance with old by-laws and is thus perfectly legal. Such a situation could often be considerably improved by making certain changes that are practical and economically sound even though they would not provide the same standard as would be expected in a new building.

“Both the owner and the local authority will have to consider what they are trying to achieve with the Regulations and the answer should be tempered by the knowledge of what is reasonable and practical to require of an existing building.”




Before any additions and/or alterations can be done, a site analysis needs to be undertaken by the Architect or Draughtsman.

When doing a site analysis, several factors need to be investigated before the drawing process even begins.

The first step is for the client to obtain a copy of his Title Deeds, this can be obtained from either the bank which handled the property transfer or from a registered Estate Agents, who will have access to the Deeds Office database.


The reason for the Title Deeds is to see if there are any restrictive clauses therein. Restrictive clauses, for example where only one dwelling the property is permitted or where specifically specified, that no dwelling may exceed the building line on the street front of the property or height restrictions are imposed on that dwelling.


A copy of the zoning certificates, indicating which town planning scheme the property is subject to, but also be looked at for any Restrictive clauses. The zoning certificates will indicate the stand size, building line restrictions on the road friends and side boundaries if applicable, servitude lines, permissible coverage allowed and permissible FAR (aka Floor Area Ratio), parking space required, and height restrictions for the area as defined by the Town Planning Scheme.

An SG diagram (aka Surveyor General diagram) showing roads, neighboring stands, stand numbers, boundary lengths, and stand orientation relative to North, sewer servitude, or any other servitude that affects the property.


Copies of the existing approved structure plans. Most local authorities have archived microfiche copies of these plans and related documentation when the file was first opened, however microfiche copies are usually of such poor quality, that at times copies of these plans are illegible. If this is the case the architect or draughtsman may have two do an on-site measurement in order to confirm the structure's size.

The Architect or Draughtsman will then analyze all the relevant data together with the client’s brief of his intended additions and/or alterations, prior to starting any sketch plans.


The Architect or Draughtsman will consult with a client, to inform him of any potential problems which may delay or obstruct the plan approval process later on.

Once the client has been informed of whether or not his proposed additions and/or alterations will be supported by the Local Authority, only then can the client make an informed decision to either change is project brief or if all is in order to instruct the architect or draughtsman to proceed with sketch plans.

We encourage our clients to scrutinize the sketch plans, and possibly measure out the size of the proposed additions on-site to verify that they are happy with the room sizes. We continue to make changes to the sketch plan as requested by our client to facilitate a smooth transition from sketch plans to the final design.

The final design is the point where the client has accepted the sizes and position of the proposed addition and/or alterations as proposed by the sketch plan. During the final design, we will make some 3D renders for our clients, that they may easily visualize the scale of the proposed changes in relation to the existing structure. Among our clients, we recognize that a 3-D model helps to visualize the space and storage capabilities of a kitchen or bathroom setting as well as the rest of the building.


Once the client is satisfied that all the parameters of his brief have been fulfilled, they then sign off the final design and the preparation of construction and local authority drawings are then processed. These are known as working drawings.

The completed set of working drawings and related documentation as required by the local authority in compliance with the National Building Regulations and SANS 10400 regulations are then handed over to the client for submission to the local authority or we can assist with the submission processes if the client requests.