Do I need an architect if I want to build a house in South Africa?

In South Africa, as per the National Building Regulations and Buildings Standards Act, it is a legal requirement to acquire planning permission before extending, renovating or building a home.

This means that a home build, be it an upgrade or new, will not be approved by the local council authority unless the building plans have been submitted by a professional that is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP).

Black architect consulting with a female client.

This professional may be a qualified draughtsperson, architectural technologist, senior architectural technologist, or architect. The professional must have a valid SACAP registration number, and should also be able to provide the client with the status of the limits of their indemnity insurance. Both of these are required before any progress can be made with plans submitted for approval by local authorities.

What are the differences between an architect and a draughtsperson?

Based on the legislation described above, you don’t need an architect, but a SACAP registered draughtsperson will be sufficient to get the plans approved.

Architect Draughtsperson
Cost 5% of building cost for plans + 3% of building cost to act as Principal Agent 5% of building cost for plans
Qualifications Five years degree + two years practical experience Two year diploma
Service Provided Building plans + acting as Principal Agent, i.e. site management Building plans
Design Approach Listens to clients and intuitively interprets what they need, creating solutions that they may not have thought of. Will produce working drawings, but may lack creativity and design ingenuity.

How much does an architect cost in South Africa?

Why it is worth hiring an architect?

Hiring an Architect has a number of benefits. Some of these include:

  • Although you may already have decided which land you want to purchase to build your new home on, it’s a good idea to ask the architect for advice before you complete the transaction. There may be aspects regarding the terrain that you didn't even think about or something you may have missed, and building your home may cost you a lot more than what you expected.
  • An architect will look at things like which side of the property is better suited for a garage, which municipal services are available in the area, as well as the zoning and building regulations that may restrict distance from the property line or building height.
  • Using an architect with years of experience will provide you with many new ideas that you may want to implement, while helping you reduce construction costs at the same time.
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