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Can any architectural category design my project?

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Many people are aware that you have to appoint an architectural profession to get approved building plans and that there are different kinds of architectural professionals, ranging from draughtsmen to full professional architects. Most people don’t understand the differences between them, so be sure to check out our article on the topic ( This article will focus on the types of projects the different professional categories are legally allowed to do.

The different categories of architectural professionals are legally administered by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession, or SACAP for short. To learn more about this, be sure to check out our article about it at One of the most significant impacts SACAP has on the built industry is through their Identification of Works Policy, the latest version of which was finally published in April 2021 after much difficulty and controversy. This came after many years during which the industry was essentially unregulated due the insistence of the Competition Commission that the policy made it too difficult for “previously disadvantaged” individuals to render certain types of architectural services due to the stringent qualification and competency requirements. The result was that SACAP could not fulfil its legal mandate and that any category of registered architectural professional was allowed to design any type of building, even if they did not have the required education and skill levels to do so properly.

After SACAP allowed registered professionals to upgrade their registration category in different ways by proving their competency, a new Identification of Works Policy, or IDoW for short, was finally gazetted. The policy is available directly from SACAP's website via the following link: The policy breaks down the types of architectural projects which the different categories of registered architectural professionals are allowed to do. It is possible for a professional to obtain special written permission from SACAP, if they can prove their competency, to do a specific type of project which normally falls outside the allowed scope for their registration category. Without such special permission though, the work that architectural professionals will be allowed to take on moving forward will be limited as follows:

Architectural projects are categorised by the IDoW policy based on the complexity, in one of three levels, of:

1. The Architectural Design

2. Environmental relationships

3. Construction Technology

4. The structure of the buildings

5. Context and Urban relationships

6. Architectural history, theory and precedent

7. Building services and related technologies

Architectural Draugthspersons are only allowed to render services on projects which fall in the simplest level of all these metrics. In practical terms, this means draughtspersons may only take on barns & sheds, stables, simple surface parking lots, residential swimming pools, boundary walls, minor additions/ alterations, and simple single storey houses. It might surprise people that this list does NOT include double storey houses, major additions/alterations or residential projects which consist of more than one unit. All such projects may not legally be done by an architectural draughtsperson unless they have special written permission from SACAP.

Architectural Technologists may do all the projects that draughtspersons are allowed to do, but may also take on projects that are of a medium complexity in all the metrics apart from the contextual/urban relationships and the architectural history, theory and precedents. In practical terms, this means they can also do animal breeding units, simple shops, retail warehouses, community halls, hostels, non-residential swimming pools and simple double storey houses. Notably they may NOT do any projects that include multiple residential units or more than two floor levels, nor may they do complex residential projects such as those in dense urban areas or on ecologically sensitive sites without SACAP’s special written permission.

Senior Architectural Technologists may do all the project types that the draughtspersons and architectural technologists may do, along with any project that is highly complex in all the metrics apart from architectural design, contextual/urban relationships and architectural history, theory and precedent; for which they may only do projects of medium complexity. In practical terms this covers the vast majority of projects but NOT those which only professional architects may do as listed in the next paragraph.

Professional architects may do any kind of architectural work. Anything that requires a high degree of complexity in the architectural design, context or theory, history & precedent cannot be done by any category lower than that of Professional Architect. Many of the project types which might normally be done by the lower categories of registration might therefore only be done by a professional architect if there are any unusual requirements which add a high degree of complexity to one of these three criteria groups. Additionally, the following list of building types may only be done by a professional architect and not by any other category:

  • ​Shopping Centres

  • Food processing units

  • Breweries

  • Telecommunications/ computer buildings

  • High-risk research/production

  • Research/development labs

  • Radio/TV/recording studios

  • Community centres

  • Branch libraries

  • Fire stations/ Ambulance

  • Railway stations

  • Airports

  • Prisons

  • Postal buildings

  • Broadcasting

  • Specialist libraries

  • Museums and art galleries

  • Theatres

  • Opera houses

  • Concert halls

  • High courts

  • Secondary schools

  • University complexes

  • University laboratories

  • Assembly/machine workshops

  • Purpose-built factories

  • Clinics

  • Health centres

  • Nursing homes

  • Hospitals

  • Laboratories

  • Sports halls

  • Leisure complexes

  • Specialized complexes

  • State-Aided Housing

  • Private Apartment blocks

  • Hotels

  • Special Needs Housing

  • Housing for the frail and elderly

  • Police stations

In additions to all of the above provisions from the IDoW, it is worth noting that there are multiple other factors which may also influence the choice to appoint a professional in a category higher than what is required by the policy. Many housing estates, for example, have their own rules as part of their architectural guidelines through which they often require a certain minimum category of registration which is higher than that of the IDoW. It is also worth noting that the design expertise and experience of professionals in a higher category of registration often bring added value which make for a far better investment than simply appointing the lowest and cheapest category of professional legally allowed to work on a project. For more information on this, be sure to read our article on when it is worth paying more for architectural services (

The most important point to take from this information on the IDoW is that there are in fact legal requirements about what different categories of architectural professionals are allowed to work on. Architectural draughtspersons may only work on the simplest and most basic projects, while Professional Architects may work on any type of project and technologists have to walk a fine line between these two extremes. Some professionals will even ignore these guidelines and take on work which they cannot legally perform, but if something goes wrong the professional and client could face serious consequences. For this reason clients should always make sure their appointed professional is legally qualified for their project and if in doubt, it is always safer to err on the side of caution by appointing an architectural professional in a higher category of registration.



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