May 272013

What the National Building Regulations say about Alterations and Additions to Existing Buildings

Additions366 Alterations & Additions

If you build onto an existing home you will need to submit plans and comply with the “new” building regulations, including Part XA which deals with energy usage.

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 legislations 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 :
    1. will affect the structural strength or stability of the original building;
    2. will render any existing escape route from the original building less effective; or
    3. will affect the health of persons using the original building.

Problems May Occur When Adding to Older Buildings

In addition to the above, the law-makers 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 an 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 which 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 which 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.”



  225 Responses to “Alterations & Additions”

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  1. Hi Penny, VERY interesting site you have :)Our question is :
    A builder asked me to prepare “As Built” plans for a project he was busy with. It entailed high pressure cleaning of the roof, covering up the existing timber cladding with new Vermont ( Handiplank )on 38×38 battens on vapour barrier, replacing the rotten timber windows with matching new. I thought the plan was for his costing purposes. He submitted them to council. He complained to me that Mossel Bay Municipality made him pay over R6000,00 ( six thousand ) for plan fees. No additions or structural work took place….purely repairs and maintenance. I told him to go ask for his money back…..the municipality declined his request. The building inspector forced him to stop work and told him he had to have plans drawn up.
    Your comments would be really appreciated. This issue is now closed as he has since passed away but I’m thinking about future projects in this line. Regards.

    • Bernard, I wouldn’t have thought that plans were needed, unless the battens were replaced. But local authorities do have the right to call for plans, even in the case of minor building work. And one is obliged to notify the local authority when minor building work, and I suppose major alterations are undertaken. I am also not sure how they work out admin and plan fees. That amount seems outrageous. Could that have included a fine for not submitting plans in the first place? The best way to find out is to call the municipality and ask.

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