According to Thomas Pagenkopf, Managing Director at Bridge Makers, the documentation of house plans and subsequent approval by Council can be daunting, but it is also about simply following the correct procedure.
Per the Building Act of 1977, building plans are required to be submitted at the local council for approval before construction commences. When buying or selling a home in Johannesburg and in the surrounding areas, the purchaser is entitled to the approved plans, which are usually archived and stored at the Civic Centre in Braamfontein.
It can occur that there are no plans or that plans were never updated. In that case, it is wise to consult with a professional architect on how to proceed. In any event, the compilation of standard building plans for council approval consists of the architectural drawings – the plans, sections and elevations of the proposed building. It also needs to include the various calculations required by the SANS 1-0400 standards or building regulations, such as energy efficiency, thermal coefficients and electrical consumption.
That might sound like a mouthful, but keep in mind that the council is looking out for the safety of the occupants of the building and that the building standards aim to make our homes and offices more comfortable and consume less energy.
In the case of the plans on the record being out-of-date or requiring amendments, a reputable architect should be consulted for the approval process. It can even occur that property and the building situated on needs to be surveyed and re-measured and then correctly drawn up on Computer Aided Draughting (CAD), after which they can be submitted for approval by Building Control. The approval should take about 30 days if the documentation is correct. There is also a submission fee payable at the council, which differs slightly from region to region.
Homeowners are advised to do their homework when purchasing a new home or when building additions and alterations. Important factors, such as building lines, municipal servitudes, area coverage and use of buildings, such as office or business conversions, are all governed by a town-planning or Land Use Scheme. Much trouble and many unnecessary costs can be avoided by finding out what is permitted on your residential property.
For example, the construction of an entertainment area next to your swimming pool right up against the boundary wall might seem like a bright idea, but the reality is that permission might be needed from your neighbours and plans, including those of the swimming pool, should be submitted for approval.
A home might even be considered to have heritage value, especially if it was built more than 60 years ago. Many suburbs in Johannesburg have such houses, as in Houghton, Parkhurst and Parkview. In that case, the heritage portal (PHRAG) should be informed prior to any alterations being executed.
In some instances, financial institutions and insurance underwriters insist on approved, stamped building plans before granting bonds or paying out insurance claims. They can even ask for proof of an Occupancy Certificate.