What is the Building Plan Approval Process in South Africa?

Building a new home is an extremely exciting time in your life, but the experience can be tainted by the building plan approval process. Getting plans submitted and approved is a long and tedious process that seems to be cloaked in secrecy, leaving so many of asking – What is the building plan approval process? What are the requirements? How long does it take to get building plans approved? Let’s touch on how the process works.

Once you have had your plans drawn up, you’ll need to take 4 to 8 copies of the drawings to your local municipality for submission. You’ll also need to submit the SANS 10400 form and SACAP Compliance Certificate that are completed by your Architectural professional. You will then be asked to make a payment to the cashier for your submission.

The plans will now be circulated to the different departments to be checked, and if everything complies with the regulations, your plans will be approved and stamped. You will be contacted to collect your approved plans and start the construction process.

That is pretty much the short answer, but I am sure this just leaves you with more questions. Some of them might include, Exactly what documents do I need to submit with my plans? How long do the plans take for approval? What happens if there is an issue with the plan or the design?

What documents do I need to submit my building plans?


Before getting into the required documents, let’s quickly touch on the actual requirements of the plans themselves. Usually, your Architectural professional will know exactly what is required, but here are some things to look out for.

You need to submit 4 to 8 hard copies of your building plans, depending on your specific municipality. Some municipalities such as Cape Town will accept digital copies in PDF format.

You need to submit colored and uncolored copies. If you are submitting a building plan for a new house, everything needs to be color-coded, if it is for an alteration or addition, then only the new structures need to be color-coded. The color coding for municipal submission drawings are as follows:

On the floor plans and sections:

  • New walls: Red
  • New concrete: Green
  • New structural steel: Blue
  • Storm water pipes: Blue
  • Sewer pipes: Brown

On the elevations:

  • Walls (elevational): Yellow
  • Walls (sectional): Red
  • Concrete (elevational): Yellow
  • Concrete (sectional): Green
  • Structural steel: Blue
  • Glass: Black
  • Stormwater pipes: Blue
  • Sewer / Soil Pipes: Brown

On the site plan:

  • Outline of the proposed structures: Red
  • Sewer pipes: Brown
  • Stormwater pipes: Blue
An example of how a floor plan should be color-coded for municipal submission.


The minimum required documents for building plan submissions are as follows:

  • Municipal submission forms. Each municipality will have their own set of building plan submission forms.
  • SANS 10400 forms (forms 1, and 2) signed by the owner of the property, as well as a competent person that is registered as an architectural professional with SACAP. Where applicable, depending on the design, an engineer also needs to sign the the SANS 10400 form, please check with your municipality or ask your architectural professional.
  • SACAP Architectural Complaince Certificate, that has been signed by your architectural professional. This person must be a registered SACAP member.
  • A Copy of the title deed or deed of transfer
  • A survey diagram that is registered with the Surveyor-generals office, that clearly indicates the boundary and dimension of the property.
  • Where applicable, a copy of the previously approved drawings from your municipality.
  • Reciept, payment of scrutiny fee (submission fee).

Other required documents (case by case):

  • If your architectural professional (or someone else) is going to submit the plans on your behalf, you’ll need to provide a power of attorney, giveing them permission to subit and sign for them on your behalf.
  • If your home is being built in an estate that has a homeowners association, you’ll need to get your plans approved and stamped by them before being submitted.
  • Structural engineers drawings if the new structure contains structural elements such as retaining walls, reinforced concrete beams or suspended walls. Check with your municipality if your design requires this. In this case, you’ll also need an engineers appointment form.

How long does it take to get your building plans approved?

Once your building plans have met the requirements and have been accepted, you will be given a reference number that you can use when following up on the progress of the application.

According to the City of Cape Town municipality, plans with an area of 500m² require one month to be assessed, and plans with an area of more than 500m² can take up to two months to be assessed. This excludes the time it takes the architectural professional to fix issues when plans are “referred”.

Realistically, building plans can take up to three months to be approved. I have had cases where plans have taken anywhere from six months to a year before being approved or referred. It really depends on the municipality and how well they are managed.

Follow up regularly to get your plans approved as quickly as possible

To get your plans approved on time, be sure to follow up regularly with the municipality. Even better, get in touch with the building plan inspector that was assigned to your application, and follow up with them directly.

What happens if my building plans are not approved?

Building plans seldomly get outright “rejected”. In most cases, they are referred. In all my time working with municipalities, I have never seen a plan being outright rejected, not even for serious problems. So what happens if there is an issue with your building plans?

If there is a problem with your building plans, a building/plan inspector will inform you that your plan has been referred. You’ll be given the reason for the referral, and often a suggested solution. If the problem is not serious, it can be amended right there on the spot with a pen by your architectural professional.

If the problem is more serious, the architectural professional will have to sign the drawings out and take them to his office to be changed or redrawn. If it was the fault of the architectural professional, they should not charge for this and should cover all the costs involved in the process, including printing fees.

Once approved, how long are my building plans valid for?

Buildings plans are valid for one year from the date of approval, but homeowners can apply to extend this date before the plans expire. That means you need to submit an application to extend the validity of the plans before they actually expire. An extension of the expiry date will be subject to a fee.

If you failed to start the construction work or fail to apply for an extension within one year, the approval will lapse automatically. In this case, if you would still like to start with the building work, you will need to resubmit a full application for the building plan approval, essentially, starting from scratch.

Plans submitted within six months of the expiry date are only subject to 50% of the plan submission fees, but plans submitted more than six months after expiry will be subject to the full submission.


It is not necessary to complete the building work before the plans expire. The requirement is that construction commences within one year of the building plan’s expiry date. There seems to be no limit to how long you take to commence construction.

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