Amongst all the laws – which one should I comply with?

By Patrick Gordon

Before 1977 there were no common national building regulations in this country.

Patrick GordonSince 1977 we have had the National Building Regulations and in 1990 revision was published, and the different parts have been revised as recently as 2011.Since 1977 we have had the National Building Regulations and in 1990 revision was published, and the different parts have been revised as recently as 2011.

The building regulations are very much the law by which we must abide when doing any designs and building work. The regional municipal bylaws cannot take away any of these laws, but can, and often do, add to the minimum requirements set out by the NBR (National Building Regulations).

The law does allow for a rational design when we are faced with design obstacles. These rational designs may not detract from safety:


Any rational design of a structural system shall be done or checked by a professional engineer or other approved competent person, and such person shall certify that such design complies with the requirements contained in regulation B1: Provided that nothing shall be construed as precluding the use of rule HH1, JJ1, KK1, LL1, or NN1, as the case may be, where the use of such rule is appropriate.

The NBR also points to the other SANS regulations pertaining to the specifics of the installations. An example of this is SANS 10254 for geyser installations and repairs.

The City of Cape Town for instance has in their Bylaws made rules pertaining to water conservation much stricter than the NBR. So, you will be expected to comply fully with the National Water Regulators and the Municipal Bylaws when you do any installation in the Western Cape.

The inputs of a panel need to be considered when listening to the requirements of a customer, but the result may not be in contravention of the regulations.As professional advisors it is our responsibility to guide our customers in the decisions that are made.In many cases the design of a project is referred to a rational design committee where they are confronted with obstacles that are being faced on site. When decisions are being made in cases like this, the National Building Regulations (NBR) supersedes any personal opinions and the safety of ‘No’ design may be compromised.

Some people may feel that these regulations are too restrictive, however if we are to have any modicum of control over the quality of design and work done, these basic minimum standards have to be adhered to. We often see examples of the type of installations that are done by so-called professional persons that leave us shaking our heads. It is time that we move with the times and stop hanging on to the things that we believe worked in the past. 

IOPSA and the PIRB are making great progress in bringing a level of professionalism back into the industry. However, they can only do it with our support. When we speak to the professional plumbers of the past, they will tell you that the system was very restrictive in that each municipality had its own rule and you had to re-apply to each region if you wanted to work there.

These days with the NBR in place and a central point of registration (PIRB) it has made the life for the plumbing industry much more comfortable.

Some plumbers also believe that having to get Continued Professional Development (CPD) points is a waste of time; “After all, I have been a plumber for 20 years”. This type of thinking is what stifles the growth in the industry. Twenty years ago, we did not have access to the technology that is available (and being used) today. We have moved away from old cast iron pipes that had lead joints and today we use lightweight PVC pipes with different types of jointing methods. Imagine if we refused to embrace the new technology. But just because the piping materials changed, we did not also disregard the basic design criteria and expected the water to flow uphill. We still put inspection eyes on direction changes so that we can rod the system afterwards.

We must stay abreast of what is happening in the international as well as the local plumbing industry. 

With all these changes in the industry we may feel that the laws are antiquated. But remember that they are still the law and we must abide by them; we can’t ignore them because we do not agree. If we believe that the laws need to change, we must go via the correct channels to apply for these changes. But remember before you try that the laws are not going to change just because we believe them to be restrictive.

Forearmed is forewarned: Make sure that you have your own copy of the relevant SANS regulations and that you know what they say. Do your part in uplifting the plumbing industry by making sure that you and your teams do the right things and that you advocate good plumbing.

If you are not sure what the right thing to do is, ask! The IOPSA technical committee will be very happy to lead you in gaining accurate knowledge. And above all remember if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing right. 

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08 Aug PA 250

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