Know Your Building: 6 Building Regulations To Follow When Constructing A House in Sri Lanka

Once you have decided to build a house of your own, the next stage is to find a suitable land plot. But with buying land to construct a house and proceeding with the building process, there is a set of housing rules and regulations set by the state that should be followed. These guarantee a safe construction site, an efficient building process and a strong building that may withstand any external pressure. In Sri Lanka, these building regulations are monitored by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and implemented by the Municipal Council. It is only once the relevant Municipal Council has approved your plan that you can start construction. 

Here we have categorized and listed a few key factors to take into consideration to get your building plan approved and start building your dream home fast. 

Site suitability 

Land comes in different forms. Some of them are suitable for construction after being evaluated by a structural engineer and others may be lands that have been filled improperly or are marshy lands not suitable for construction at all.

The UDA, however, has regulations set on the types of land that can be used for construction, and these requirements must be followed when building buildings. Based on this, construction cannot be carried out at; 

  1. A site that has been filled with materials injected with manure, animal or plant matter, unless the material has been removed and the site has been thoroughly cleaned, or the entire soil surface has been deemed harmless and covered with a layer of mud or any other suitable material at least one foot thick. 
  2. A site vulnerable to flooding until the ground covered by the development or building is one foot higher than the highest known flood level of the site, and is around the site boundary or three meters to the site boundary, whichever is closer.

When buying land from an owner, make sure to read through its historical records at the land registry. These records can be read after submitting an application to the land registry by any person interested in the property, his attorney, or an authorized agent. It is also important that you are certain about the ownership of the land, as most land frauds related to ownership of a land also take place frequently. 

Finding the right plot

Besides the general factors such as location, neighborhood, price, etc. that you evaluate when buying land, there are other factors to consider too. These will help in ensuring you get your mortgage loan approved, your building plan passed easily and your ownership of the plot guaranteed. 

When buying land for residential purposes consider; 

  1. Approval requirements for a loan.
  2. The slope – Whether water flows out of the land or is contained within the land
  3. Whether the land is filled or natural  
  4. Street line (veethi rekha) 
  5. Water supply (Lands less than 35 perch should have a well)
  6. Electricity supply and whether there is an electric pole close to the land
  7. The availability of high tension lines or phone masts close by 
  8. Whether there is high velocity water running close by. If so, consider an alternative plot as it could affect the property over time. 
  9. If there is a stream running inside or adjacent to the property, check whether a reservation has been kept for the stream. The reservation is typically 3 ft from the center of the stream, however, this can vary based on the council regulations and the size of the stream
  10. Whether it is close to landfills or a waste disposing area
  11. Obtain a copy of the deed verified through your lawyer
  12. Check the survey plan (should be less than 10 years and check whether the council has approved it)
  13. Clear deeds for minimum 35 years (paththiru / title report)
  14. Work with a lawyer and check with a local authority to get approved documents.

Floor area ratio 

The floor area ratio is the proportion of a building’s entire usable floor area to the total area of the lot on which it stands and a larger ratio would most likely suggest dense or urban development. Since a city has a capacity that it can occupy, with the current population increase, managing the floor area ratio has become even more important to the authorities. 

The Urban Development Authority Planning and Building regulations 1986 has set the following basic conditions in terms of the floor area ratio in Sri Lanka.

  1. Any approved development plan for any development area or any development plan under consideration should include the maximum floor area ratio allowed based on the area factor of any site. 
  2. Basements for parking lots and places to set up air conditioning equipment or other service machinery may be allowed besides the maximum construction area. 

If a permanent parking space is provided at the level of any floor of a building under these rules, the parking space will be excluded from the calculation of the maximum permitted construction area.

Access regulations

The UDA categorizes access requirements to a site based on its purpose. According to this, the access requirements for a residential and a non-residential building have its own separate regulations.  

  1. Except as authorized under regulation, no site or lot facing a street smaller than 9m in width can be used for non-residential use or construction of any building for such use.
  2. Every street serving residential units must comply with the criteria set forth below;
Number of units servedMinimum width (m)Minimum length (m)
Under 4 dwelling units3.050
Over 4 but less than 8 units4.5100
Over  8 but less than 20 dwelling units6.0
Over 20 dwelling units9.0
  1. Every such roadway must link to a public street with a width of at least 7 meters or a private street with a width of at least 7 meters owned by the owner of the private street.
  2. Every street having a width of less than 9 meters and a length of over 30 meters must have a turning circle with a diameter of not less than 9 meters at the dead end.

Height of a building 

Since Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the sea, the requirements related to building heights are much different from any other territorially surrounded country. 

(1) The height of the building should be consistent with the average sea level. 

 (2) Unless the authority orders otherwise, the maximum height of a structure on an existing lot with a width of 6m or less and a surface area of less than 150 m2 shall not exceed 7.5m or two stories.

 (3) A building’s maximum height should not exceed 15 meters or twice the distance between any floor of a building and the far edge of the bordering street.

 (4) If the land is in a corner, the height of the building will be regulated by the wider of the two streets in the area where it adjoins or would adjoin on the narrower street to a depth of 20 meters from the wider street.

 (5) The height of a lift or motor room less than 6 meters and not exceeding 55 ㎡ in area, a staircase room not exceeding 5 meters and not exceeding 25 ㎡ in area, or a water tank not exceeding 1.5 meters shall be ignored when measuring the height under this regulation.

Posted Date: 1st September 2021

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