When do you need an Architect - 5 things

So you've decided to do the addition or renovation to your home - do you need to hire an architect or can you just go ahead by yourself or with a small-time builder?


Here are 5 points to help you decide whether you need to go to the extra expense of getting a professional on board and when you need not.


(Note: this is generalised advice applicable in the South African context)


But first, understand what an architect can offer you...

Architect's services can include:


  1. Design advice. An architect's training and experience will enable him/her to design a solution that pleases legal, aesthetic and practical requirements. 

  2. Detailed design drawings. An architect will draft a plan in detail for construction as well as specify suitable finishes and fittings.

  3. Local authority approval. The National Building Regulations require all building plans to be submitted to the local authority (municipality) for approval by the Building Control Officer. Your architect will be able to do this for you - an individual who is not registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP) will not be allowed to do this. Failure to obtain local authority approval lays the legal responsibility and liability with the owner.

  4. Project management. Your architect is qualified to manage the appointment of a building contractor as your agent and manage the project progress until completion and the issuing of an occupation certificate by the local authority.

  5. Long-term liability. An architect remains responsible for his/her work and is liable for any design defects (this is not to be confused with construction defects or structural design responsibility, which lie with the contractor and engineer respectively).


You need an architect when:

whether your project is significant or minor, you will need to appoint a professional architect and obtain local authority approval if: 


  1. You are changing the footprint of your building (ie. adding on a part of the building). This includes demolitions as well as the addition of out-buildings more than 9 square meters, covered patios (or lapa), carports and swimming pools.  

  2. You are not planning any changes to the footprint but you are changing the occupancy (for example, changing a house into an office or converting part of your home into a second dwelling). 

  3. You are changing the size of rooms or windows. The possible implication is that the space no longer complies with the building regulations pertaining to lighting, solar heat gain and ventilation, which are determined based on the ratio of window area to floor area. 

  4. You are going to make structural changes, such as breaking through load-bearing walls, changing the roof or adding a floor level (including mezzanine floors).

  5. If you are adding new plumbing and drainage points (especially if it means extending the outdoors underground system) - once again, there is a risk of non-compliance with the building regulations.


You don't need and architect when:

You are not required to submit building plans for approval if you are:


  1. Replacing sanitary fittings (eg. new bath, toilet, etc.)

  2. Installing new finishes (eg. new tiles,floor finishes). 

  3. Installing new kitchen cupboards.

  4. Replacing hot water geyser or installing solar water heater.

  5. Installing rainwater harvesting or grey water system (soon to be changed and subjected to National Building Regulations). 

However, even when an architect is not strictly required, it is always a good idea to at least have one consultation session to bounce ideas off a pro and to confirm that building plan submission is not necessary.


 Good luck with you project and feel free to drop us an email with your questions and post your Before and After photos in our Project Podium forum.





































































































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