Until the Council tells you No!

“This is an important stage in reaching your goal to be a home owner.  At this point you have finalised your design with your Architect who has produced Working (or Construction) Drawings for submission to the Local Authority (Municipal Council) of the city/town in which your plot is located.”

An architect friend of mine, Chola Tembo, once wrote on her blog, in a piece she called:

“How to Build a House: What No One Tells You About Submitting Drawings for Approval”


She further went on to mention the main steps to follow as an architect (and other designers-alike) for successful submission and approval of client’s drawings.

And one of those mentioned steps was Scrutiny of drawings.

Well, without echoing a lot of what was already covered in her blog, I’ll just go a mile further by highlighting, not all, but most of what I’ve come to know (through my job) departments within the council look for from submitted drawings after close and careful examination.

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Illustration of authenticity in claim by the architect (and other designers-alike) of council standard offsets is shown by dimensions of the plot on the site plan. Upon commencement of works, these dimensions later on aide with setting out the building on the plot.

The recommended minimum distance between the façade wall of the building and the plot boundary line must be 6 meters (with another 6 meters between the reserve road and the plot boundary in Middle to High Cost areas for surface water drainage.)

While for foul and surface water drainage from the plot, an offset of 3 meters is recommended between the rear and the sides, and the plot boundary respectively.

For plots in serviced areas, indication of the drainage line on either the floor plan or the site plan is prudent as connections to the main sewer line can be monitored and regulated thereafter.

Every structure (regardless of the state; new build or an extension or a renovation) proposed for erection on the plot requires a set of drawings and approved by the relevant authorities – in this case the council. It is therefore a common trend today to have drawings for the wall fence, septic tank and soakaway included with the rest of the drawings, and to scale so as to have them approved as one.

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A typical set of drawings comes in twofold; design and working drawings. Design drawings are a presentational set while working drawings are dimensioned and a lot more detailed than the other set.

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 Of course these are many, but other fascinating details to me are:

  • Standard dimensions of openings i.e. minimum size of a door must be 800mm and shown as such on the floor plan and the door schedule.
  • Swing of the kitchen door must be outward to serve as a quick exit in the case of fire.
  • Garage door to lead into a ventilation chamber that might serve well in case of a fire rather than directly into the structure.
  • Illustration of heights and levels on all facets of the building in a Section.
  • All drawings must be laid out on a title block.
  • The project title must capture everything that is being developed and include all the drawings in the drawing title.
  • These drawings must indicate the correct scale on the drawings.
  • Construction notes
  • And so on and so forth…..

It’s all fun and games until the law rains a rejection storm on approval of your drawings for simply not keeping to the stipulated standard. For the architect (and other designers-alike) this can be quite taxing after putting in all the hours, and maybe the client too but mostly if partial payment for the service was made to the designer.

Such unnecessary headaches can of course be avoided for all parties involved, and it therefore becomes incumbent upon the designer to commit to standards and regulations on all works going through his/her office. Rules are obviously there for a reason and that is to keep everything on the straight and narrow.

That way, everyone walks away happy and satisfied and if the work was done accordingly, then the client is sure to come back or better yet, recommend the designer to more and consequently a growth in clientele is realised.



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