REALWorld Law

Planning / zoning

Controls on detailed design

Does public law control the detailed design, appearance and method of construction of any new building?

Angola

Angola

Yes, planning law may control the design and appearance of new buildings, in particular the Detail Plans (Planos de Pormenor). The method of construction is governed by the General Regulations on Buildings (Regulamento Geral das Edificações Urbanas).

Argentina

Argentina

Yes, its does. Design, appearance and methods of construction are usually regulated when related to the facade of a new building. Internal aspects are regulated when approving the construction plan.

Australia

Australia

Generally, public laws do not control detailed design, appearance and method of construction. These matters are dealt with under separate documents which address specific design criteria unique to local areas. In some cases, for example in heritage areas or special urban design precincts, there may be controls over detailed design and appearance.

Some planning instruments also include objectives and standards for urban design (relating to neighbourhood character, amenity, design responses, etc). These are matters considered by the planning authority as part of the application process. In addition to general planning controls there are building controls which concern the structural integrity of the proposed building. However these controls are not directed at urban design and appearance.

Belgium

Belgium

Public law controls, in part, the design, appearance and method of construction of any new building. This is governed planning instruments at regional, provincial and local levels. The applicable related regulations are numerous.

In the Flemish Region, the Flemish Public Planning Code states that ‘public planning policies’, (being detailed policies or requirements regarding, amongst other matters, design, appearance, and access to public utilities), can be made at the regional, provincial and municipal level. Usually, the most detailed policies are made at municipal level.

In the Brussels Capital Region, the Brussels Code regarding Public Planning of 9 April 2004 contains similar provisions. The Code states that ‘public planning policies’ can be made at regional and municipal level. There are no provincial public planning policies in the Brussels Capital Region.

The regional policies take precedence over municipal policies. Also, the municipalities are legally obliged to amend their policies, if they are incompatible with the region’s policies.

In the Walloon Region, the Code for Territorial Development states that ‘public planning prescriptions’ can be made at regional and municipal level. There are no provincial public planning prescriptions in the Walloon Region. Under the Code for Territorial Development, only the ‘public planning prescriptions’ at regional level are compulsory whereas the ‘public planning prescriptions’ at municipal level are indicative.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

The design of the building is not strictly regulated by the authorities, but it may not deviate from construction plans provided for by the local planning/zoning regulations.

Brazil

Brazil

It depends on the zoning and planning rule where the property is located, and whether it is protected for environmental, historical or aesthetic reasons.

Canada

Canada

Some planning instruments, such as building and demolition permits, include detailed design, appearance and method of construction objectives and standards for the design and construction or alteration of a building. Building permits, and other similar controls, are a means of ensuring that buildings and structures are built safely, and are built in a location and for a purpose permitted by other local planning instruments. Such building controls and regulations are typically based on national or provincial building and construction codes.

In most cases the relevant local government should be consulted to determine whether a building permit is required before construction proceeds.

China

China

Before any construction work begins, detailed plans and drawings must be submitted to the local construction bureau for approval. Once approved, the construction bureau will issue a construction permit. There are no regulations governing the circumstances in which the construction bureau must issue a construction permit and it is therefore entirely discretionary. No works may commence until the construction permit has been issued.

Colombia

Colombia

In Colombia, public law establishes the minimum regulatory requirements that must be met to construct a new building. These requirements are set out in the Seismic Resistant Regime, in the zoning plan and in planning instruments that might apply only to certain areas.

In some cases, even the appearance of buildings might be regulated. For example, in municipalities such as Villa de Leyva or Barichara, efforts are made to maintain the colonial architecture that characterizes the area. For this reason, even the colour and material of the facade are regulated.

Croatia

Croatia

The design and appearance of new buildings is governed by applicable urban plans and other planning regulations. The method of construction is governed by construction regulations.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Yes, public law applies to the structures or facilities on the site. The law impacts on the use of the site and any proposed alteration in the use of the site, each being possible only on the basis of building permission and in compliance with a local zoning or regulatory plan. This issue is governed by planning legislation. The construction of the structures themselves is governed by building regulations (in each particular case, building permission is necessary (exceptions apply to specific very small structures and landscape alterations).

Denmark

Denmark

As a general rule, the construction of new buildings or a refurbishment presupposes that permission has been obtained from the municipal authorities.

Local plans can control the detailed design, appearance and method of construction of new buildings. If there is no local plan these conditions can also be defined in the planning permission that the landowner in a rural area must obtain from the municipal authority prior to the construction of new buildings.

France

France

Planning law controls the design and appearance of new buildings. The method of construction is governed by building regulations. Public law controls whether a landowner may construct a new building or refurbish an existing building by means of prior planning authorisation, usually a building permit.

Other types of authorisation may be required, depending on factors such as the location of the building, its future intended use and the extent of any contemplated works. These can include a declaration of works, an authorisation to create commercial space, an authorisation for high-rise buildings, authorisations in relation to premises open to the public, a declaration for a change from a residential use to another use (mandatory in certain cities), and an authorisation to create resorts in the mountains.

Germany

Germany

Yes, the design, appearance and size of new buildings are governed by legislation:

  • the Federal Building Code (Baugesetzbuch), and
  • the Federal Land Utilization Ordinance (Baunutzungsverordnung).

As far as the safety of buildings is concerned (fire prevention, layout and structural safety), the Building Codes of the federal states apply.

Hong Kong, SAR

Hong Kong, SAR

Yes, the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123 of the Laws of Hong Kong) and derivative regulations, as well as the plans for land use can contain requirements regarding the building's technical and aesthetic design. Practice notes and guidelines issued by the Buildings Department impose further detailed requirements on the design of buildings. The Urban Design Guidelines also include objectives and standards for urban design (relating to district character and amenities, natural setting, landscape, etc). All plans must be submitted to the Building Authority for approval before construction. Beyond this, there remains a significant degree of freedom for the developer.

Buildings in the New Territories, a more rural area of Hong Kong, are subject to the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap. 121 of the Laws of Hong Kong). More stringent statutory specifications are imposed on the construction of particular buildings called Small Houses, which are built in accordance with the Small House Policy under which male indigenous villagers who are at least 18 years old in the New Territories are allowed to build a house on Government land upon payment of a concessionary premium or on their land.

Hungary

Hungary

Where a building permit is required, the structure must comply with applicable national standards and minimum requirements. As far as appearance and method of constructions are concerned, local municipalities may introduce specific requirements in their local building codes or their townscape regulations. Requirements may vary between different zoning blocks of a municipality.

Additional restrictions apply to buildings that are subject to some form of heritage protection (either national or local), in these cases the building authority may prescribe the use of certain materials, colours or design elements for the refurbishment of the building.

Ireland

Ireland

Yes, the design and appearance of new buildings are governed by planning legislation. The method of construction is governed by Building Regulations made pursuant to the Building Control Acts 1990 and 2007.

Under Section 2 of the 2000 Act works are defined as including:

“any act or operation of construction, excavation, demolition, extension, alteration, repair or renewal and, in relation to a protected structure or proposed protected structure, includes any act or operation involving the application or removal of plaster, paint, wallpaper, tiles or other material to or from the surfaces of the interior or exterior of a structure.”

It follows that an application for planning permission must include details of design and appearance.

The main criteria for deciding whether “works” constitute development are size, permanence and the degree of physical attachment to the land.

The Building Regulations were amended to provide for new requiements in relation to Ventilation and the Conservation of Fuel and Energy in the design of new buildings where works commenced on or after 1 November 2019.  These amendments transpose the EU’s recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU, which requires that all new buildings must be nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) from 31 December 2020. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has recently been updated with agreed text being approved in December 2023. Revised regulations to meet the requirements for zero energy buildings by 2050 will need to be implemented.

Italy

Italy

Yes, the project detailing the design and appearance of new buildings drafted by private entities is verified by the competent authorities (the municipality and eventually other the authorities involved) in order to assess its compliance with the planning legislation before the issuance of the title authorizing the works. The method of construction is governed by building regulations.

Japan

Japan

Yes. Both the CPA and the Landscape Act regulate the design and appearance of the landscape of designated scenic zones, whereas methods of construction generally are not regulated.

Netherlands

Netherlands

The design and (external) appearance of new buildings is partially governed by the applicable (municipal) environmental plan and to the extend related to the environmental plan included in policy documents (eg welstandsnota). If a building permit is necessary, the appearance of the building must meet certain requirements set out in the local environmental plan and the building requirements contained in the environmental plan.

The method of construction is governed primarily by both by uniform building regulations including. Environment Buildings Decree, as well as additional regulations that might be set at local (municipal) level. The decree contains the technical regulations that represent minimum requirements for all structures in the Netherlands. The requirements relate to safety, health, usability, energy efficiency and the environment.

New Zealand

New Zealand

Yes, the design and appearance of new buildings are controlled by the planning framework. Most district plans divide the district into zones. Each zone has specific controls for land uses in the area covered by the zone which usually relate to the zone's predominant land use. The method of construction is governed by a separate regime of building regulations, particularly the Building Code, which all building work in New Zealand must comply with.

Nigeria

Nigeria

By law, every applicant for Planning Permit must submit the detailed architectural drawings (building development plan) of the proposed development for vetting and approval by the Planning Permit Authority. There are regulations with respect to the design and appearance of the building development and such matters as setbacks, plot coverage, permissible height and number of floors, easements of access and rights of way etc.

Aside from the respective States Urban and Physical planning regulations, there is the National Building Code 2006, which regulates the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings in Nigeria. The Building Code lays down minimum standards for the quality and durability of construction materials and the building systems covering all aspects of building construction ranging from fire and safety issues, structural designs, security, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, minimum air quality standards, energy conservation and accessibility.

Norway

Norway

Yes, the Planning and Building Act and derivative regulations, as well as the plans for land use can contain requirements regarding the building’s technical and aesthetic design. However, beyond this, there remains a significant degree of freedom for the developer.

Poland

Poland

Yes, there are certain statutory provisions stipulating that any new development must comply with the already existing spatial order. Requirements for new buildings are specified in the local development plan. Where there is no local development plan, an individual decision based on the characteristics of existing buildings in the neighbourhood must be obtained.

The Polish law does not control detailed design or appearance of the new buildings however, if it is found that a building spoils the appearance of the surrounding area, the competent authority shall order, by decision, to remove those non-compliances within the prescribed period.

The rules establishing requirements concerning the method of construction of any new buildings as well as the distance of the external outline of the buildings from the boundaries of the land are stipulated in the Building Law Act and will depend on the character and designated use of the building.

Portugal

Portugal

The design and appearance of a new building may be governed by public law if a detailed plan or an urbanization plan has been approved for the area. Even so, usually the design and appearance of a new building is not completely controlled by public law.

The recent changes have created new cases in which if there is a detailed designed plan, it is only required a prior notice to the municipality, instead of obtaining a licence. As long as, some requisites are met.

This happens in cases such as, if the detailed design plan was published after 7 March 1993 and the plan contemplates plot divisions or in urbanisation works and land remodelling works, as long as the detailed plan was published after 7 March 1993 and it provides for the implementation and programming of said urbanization and building works.

The method of construction is governed by building regulations such as the General Regulations of Urban Buildings dated from 1951 (Regulamento Geral das Edificações Urbanas).

Romania

Romania

The Law 10/1995 regarding quality in construction works provides the main framework of the requirements that need to be fulfilled by investors, designers and constructors. Furthermore, several technical regulations regulate the construction quality system.

Certain standards must be met throughout the entire existence of the construction relating to:

  • Resistance and stability;
  • Fire safety;
  • Hygiene, public health and environmental protection;
  • Safe usage of the construction;
  • Thermal insulations and energy saving;
  • Noise protection; and
  • Sustainable use of natural resources.

Technical expertise must be provided by authorized experts for rebuilding, consolidation, transformation, partial demolition purposes.

Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic

Yes, the design and appearance (eg the height) of new buildings are governed by the planning legislation, in particular in zoning plans.

In addition, during the procedure for issuing a building permit, the building office reviews a project and the proposed building. It also checks whether conditions set in the zoning plans and zoning permits have been fulfilled, and whether an authorized person will carry out the building construction.

The method of construction is governed by building regulations.

Spain

Spain

The design and appearance of new buildings are not in general controlled or limited by public law, but they are to some extent regulated by the applicable urban planning regulations, which establish for example the maximum height and number of floors permitted and the maximum percentage of occupation of the plot.

The detailed design and appearance may be controlled or limited by virtue of cultural or heritage protection measures imposed by the relevant regulations.

The method of construction must follow the Technical Building Code and other applicable technical regulations.

Sweden

Sweden

Yes, the design and appearance of new buildings is governed by planning legislation, both binding and non-binding, public and local. The main legislation is found in the Planning and Building Act. There are also local policy documents issued by each municipality in the form of detailed development plans (detaljplan) which are binding, and the overall plan (översiktsplan) which is non-binding, but advisory.

The method of construction is governed by statutory building regulations as well as by regulations issued by trade associations. The design and appearance of new buildings may also be subject to review by certain authorities, such as the Council for the Protection of Ecological and Aesthetic Matters, although this depends on where the new building is located.

Thailand

Thailand

Yes, the Building Control Act B.E. 2522 controls the layout of the building such as the setback requirements and there are some local regulations issued pursuant to the Building Control Act B.E. 2522 that apply to certain areas, such as Samui Island, that mandate that the design of the roof of the building must be in accordance with its natural surroundings.

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

The Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) announced in June 2009 that the Abu Dhabi Emirate has officially adopted the International Codes of the International Code Council. The adopted codes include:

  • International Building Code
  • International Fire Code
  • International Plumbing Code
  • International Energy Conservation Code
  • International Mechanical Code
  • International Fuel Gas Code
  • International Private Sewage Disposal Code.

In addition, the Abu Dhabi Environmental Health & Safety Management System (AD EHSMS) is in the second phase of its implementation.  This system requires nominated entities to create an Environmental Health & Safety Management System to comply with the AD EHSMS.  As part of the AD EHSMS, a number of regulatory instruments (including Codes of Practice) have been issued and are mandatory.   The current version of the AD EHSMS (including the Codes of Practice) is available on the official website of the AD EHSMS Centre. The Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities (DUPM)  has issued the following guidelines for design and construction:

  • Sustainable Urban Design
  • Culture and Heritage
  • Coastal Development
  • Urban Street Design
  • Neighbourhood planning.

Any development must also comply with the statutory requirements of other government agencies, such as the Department of Transport, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Education Council and Abu Dhabi Waste Management Control, amongst others.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

Dubai Administrative Resolution No. 125 of 2001 (as amended by Dubai Administrative Decision No. 37/2021) concerning the adoption of Building Regulations and Standards provides the public law control both for the technical aspects of the detailed design, as well as the restrictions for aesthetic and heritage areas.

Numerous technical guidelines and circulars issued by Dubai Municipality, Trakhees and TECOM also regulate the detailed design. These need to be examined on a case by case basis to ensure that the detailed design is compliant with the relevant regulations for the area where the building is being constructed.

UK - England and Wales UK - England and Wales

UK - England and Wales

Yes, the design and appearance of new buildings are controlled by the planning system. The method of construction is governed by a separate regime of building regulations.

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

Yes, the design and appearance of new buildings is governed by planning legislation. The method of construction is governed by building regulations.

Ukraine

Ukraine

Under Ukrainian law the general design requirements for the construction of new buildings are set out in the local town planning documentation to be developed in line with higher-level town planning documentation. Specifically, the town planning documentation for most settlements is to comprise a General Plan of Settlement, a Detailed Plan of Territories and a Plan for the Zoning of Territories. At the national level the General Scheme for Planning in the Territory of Ukraine and schemes for separate regions is to be developed.

After the development of all levels of town planning documentation, input data for planning (which contain specific requirements for the development of separate buildings) can be obtained on the basis of the local town planning documentation and planning documentation for the construction of separate buildings can be prepared and approved as required by the law.

It should be noted that currently in Ukraine not all levels of town planning documentation are in place. From 1 January 2015 the allocation of state and municipal land to the ownership or use of individuals and legal entities, and any change in land zoning for town-planning (construction) purposes, has been prohibited if the relevant zoning plans or detailed plans have not been developed for the territory where relevant land is located. In addition, in cases where these plans are not available, local authorities are not entitled to issue the data for planning.

United States

United States

While some localities allow significant discretion in the design and appearance of new buildings, in other localitiess, the design and appearance of new buildings require review and/or approval by local authorities or advisory bodies, such as Architectural & Design Review Committees, Homeowners Associations, Business Improvement District representatives and/or Planning Commissions. The method of construction is usually governed by construction and building regulations adopted by local authorities, that are typically based on national standards and requirements for building and construction codes.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

The Housing Standards and Control Act [Chapter 29:08] and Model Building By-laws constitute the policy instruments governing housing unit development. The Factories and Works Act [Chapter 14:08] specifies the minimum building standards for a factory. The government is empowered to deal with buildings of unsatisfactory standards, issues of overcrowding and control of harmful use of premises, including the protection of the rights of neighbours. Structures which are substandard may be demolished.

The Housing Standards and Control Act defines the council’s powers to monitor housing development and to order demolition where necessary. These two instruments work in conjunction with the Regional Town and Country Planning Act and together guide the enactment of council by-laws.

In cases where the construction of a new building is taking place on a wetland the Environmental Management Agency and Catchment Council working on the authority of the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27] and Water Act [Chapter 20:24] provide direction on the method of construction. All this meant to ensure minimum negative impact on  the environment.