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Municipal Requirements in Planning of Buildings | Building plan approval | Building Permit

Requirements for building plan approval - When planning buildings in cities, towns and municipalities in India, we have to obey certain rules and regulations regarding the minimum size of the plot with respect to the width of the road in front, spaces to be left around the building for ventilation, etc. In this chapter, we will briefly examine the nature of these requirements that are laid down. As these requirements vary from place to place in the same city and from city to town, only the basic principles are discussed in this chapter. For the rules applicable to each situation, the regulations published by the concerned authority (panchayat, municipality or corporation) should be consulted.



According to the National Building Code of India (1970), buildings are classified into 9 groups according to their occupancy as follows:

(i) Group A: Residential buildings

(ii) Group B: Educational buildings

(iii) Group C: Institutional buildings

(iv) Group D: Assembly buildings

(v) Group E: Business buildings

(vi) Group F: Mercantile buildings (whole and retail)

(vii) Group G: Industrial buildings (with fire hazards)

(viii) Group H: Storage buildings

(ix)  Group I: Hazardous buildings

These names are self-explanatory. There are many subdivisions in each of these groups. For example, Group A (residential) buildings can be further subdivided into private family residences, dormitories, hostels, etc. However, we will not go into these details as they are to be studied under Architectural Planning Requirements. The architect has to plan buildings according to these regulations. These requirements can be obtained from the office of the concerned metropolitan authority or municipality.



There are some definitions with which we must be familiar.


Building Line

A building line is the line corresponding to the plinth of a building that adjoins the street or extension of the street. According to regulations, there is a minimum distance we have to keep between this line and the adjoining street line.


Building Height

Generally speaking, the height of a building is its height above the ground level. However, in some municipal regulations, it is measured with reference to the middle of the adjacent road level. In cases of buildings abutting a street, heights are measured differently for a flat roof construction from that of sloped roof construction.


For a flat roof construction adjoining a street, the height is defined as the vertical distance measured from the average level of the centre line of the adjoining street to the highest point of the roof of the building.


For a sloped roof without gables adjoining a street, the height is taken as the vertical distance measured from the average level of the centre line of the adjacent street to the point where the external surface of the outer wall intersects the finished surface of the sloping roof.


For a gabled roof, the reference point for height on the building is the mid-point between the eave level and the ridge.



(a) According to the official criteria of the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, "The height of a building is measured from the sidewalk level of the main entrance to the architectural top of the building, including the penthouse and tower. Towers include spires and pinnacles. Television and radio antennas and flag poles are not included. Presently, the tallest building in the world is the 508 m high Taipei in Taiwan. Petronas Tower in Malaysia is 452 m high.


(b) The definition of height is important as many corporations classify a building as high and low rise depending on its height. The taxes to be paid for construction permits are different for low and high rise buildings. There are case histories where disputes have arisen with sloped roof buildings regarding their heights.


(c) The so-called  63-1/2 degrees rule refers to a diagonal drawn at 63 1/2° to a horizontal line drawn with reference to the rear boundary of the building as shown in Fig. below. No part of the building is to project beyond this diagonal.


63-1/2 degrees

Multistorey Buildings (MSBs)

Buildings more than four floors (ground plus three or stilts plus four) or more than 15 m in height are called multistorey buildings. These can be built only in a plot area not less than 1500 sq m (6.725 grounds in Tamil Nadu).


Carpet Area

This is the usable area of a building. In a residential house, it will exclude verandah, bathrooms, staircases, etc. The carpet area of an office building can be 60 to 75% of the plinth area and in a residence, it can be as low as 50 to 65% (65% being the target to be achieved) of the plinth area.


Plinth Area

This is the built-up covered area of a building measured at the floor level by taking the external dimensions of the building excluding the plinth offset. It also includes areas of porches (other than cantilevered) balconies, etc.


Floor Area

It is the plinth area minus the area occupied by walls, doors, openings, etc.


Floor Area Ratio (FAR) or Floor Space Index (FSI)

It is commonly known as the floor space index (FSI) and is given by

Floor Space Index (FSI)

An FSI of 1.5 is nowadays allowed for flats in most cities (MSBs require more).


Front Setback (FSB), Rear Setback (RSB) and Side Setback (SSB)

These are the setbacks specified by the competent authority from the boundaries of the building plot.

The minimum front setback (FSB) to be kept when planning a building will be specified with reference to the area where the building is situated and also the width of a road in front. In many old congested commercial areas of cities, it is usually less than that specified for new developing residential areas. The minimum RSB and SSB are usually specified with reference to the height of the building and the width of the road in front.



As we have already seen that the building regulations vary from state to state and in the same state, from towns to cities and in the same city, from place to place. For example, the regulations at the heart of an old commercial area will be different from the regulations for the new residential area in the same city. As an example, the present regulations for residential buildings in the municipal and township areas of Chennai issued by the Madras Metropolitan Development Authority are as shown in the table below

Requirements in the city areas for residences G + 1 floor (Maximum for accommodating three dwellings)

Requirements in the city areas for residences


The Madras Metropolitan Development Authority has also issued requirements separately for different types of buildings for different areas as given below:

1. Residential (G + 1) and maximum of 3 dwelling units

2. Commercial (G + 1), not exceeding 300 m2 floor area

3. Institutional, not exceeding 4 floors or 15 m height

4. Industrial, not exceeding 4 floors or 15 m height

5. Theatres/hotels/lodges/religious buildings/Kalyana Mandapams/hospitals, not exceeding 4 floors or 15 m in height

6. Residential layouts

7. Special buildings and group developments

These publications can be obtained from the authority and should be consulted when planning new buildings at a given place.



The National Building Code (SP 7-2005) and other agencies have laid down many other minimum requirements such as a minimum number of rooms, the height of rooms, etc. for different types of buildings. These requirements are many, but most normal building practices that we usually follow will satisfy them.

The rules regarding boundary walls and distance from electric supply lines which we have to comply within cities are briefly discussed below.

Boundary walls. Normally the height of a solid boundary wall should be limited to 1.5 m (5 ft). It can also be 2.4 m (8 ft) provided the top 0.9 m (3 ft) is of open type of wall construction approved by the authority. In the case of corner plots for a distance of 10 m, the solid wall height should only be up to 0.75 m and the balance should be open type construction.

Distance from the electric lines. The minimum safe distances for various supply voltages specified by the Indian Electricity Supply rules are shown in the Table Below.

A minimum safe distance of building from the electricity supply line

minimum safe distance of building from the electricity supply

There are many other requirements and these are to be studied in the architectural planning of buildings.



There are many regulations laid down by the competent authorities with regard to the location of a building at a given site. Building plans will be "approved for construction" only if these requirements are met. In addition, before starting the actual construction of buildings, we should also go to the site and physically check these requirements from the approved construction drawings. There will be no difficulty getting a completion report from the authority after the building has been completed. There are many case histories where this omission of checking at the site before construction has led to difficulties after completion of the building.


What are development control regulations?

It is a mechanism that controls the growth and use of land. This includes constructing new buildings, extending existing buildings and converting the building or land to another use.


What is the 63-1/2 degrees angle rule?

The so-called  63-1/2 degrees rule refers to a diagonal drawn at 63 1/2° to a horizontal line drawn with reference to the rear boundary of the building as shown in Fig. above No part of the building is to project beyond this diagonal.


Is building plan approval mandatory in Tamilnadu?

Yes, Planning permission is required in both plan and non-plan areas. Section 47 (A) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971


How building plans are approved?

Building approval includes the building plan and layout approval for the building. building plans are approved by obtaining the approval of the Authority for Building plan approval/building permits under the provisions of the Building byelaws, Master Plan and Local Bodies Acts.

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