27 May 2020

Architectural character and plot selection

As an issue we face from time to time, some clients contrive concepts that are unique in terms of mass-form, dimensions and appearance, but cannot be realised on the given parcel in compliance with the applicable regulations.

Examples often include very low slope or flat roofs, as well as roof and façade cladding materials in unusual colour schemes. Beyond plot coverage rates, local regulations often specify requirements in relation to the visual features of buildings.

If the unconventional visual characteristics of the building are among the client’s top priorities, it is crucial to obtain information on the applicable local rules prior to selecting and buying the plot. Most of such requirements are laid down in the local building code and the townscape regulations. For example, the aforementioned documents often prescribe a roof slope not lower than 30-35 degrees, white or light pastel colours for the façade, while roof covering materials cannot bear grey or black shades, and the regulations sometimes disallow all colours other than natural clay. Moreover, the use of certain materials (typical examples include asphalt shingles and roofing sheets) is prohibited by law. Of course, the corresponding clauses of these regulations also apply to buildings designed and constructed under a simple notification procedure. In the design phase, it is possible or – if prescribed by the townscape regulations – mandatory to consult the given settlement’s chief architect regarding compliance with townscape requirements. However, the body of regulations does not give us much leeway at this point.

Notably, the currently valid version of all local regulations must be available on the settlement’s website, as well as in the Hungarian National Legislation Database (under topics [“témakör”] D1 and D2 of the local decrees [“önkormányzati rendeletek”] menu). Unfortunately, despite the obligation to make these documents available, some of them are not posted online. In this case, it is advisable to get in touch with the technical department, chief architect or mayor of the town, and consult them on your ideas – in such situations, architectural designers may be of great assistance. When beginning to look for a building plot, the form and visual features of nearby buildings may also serve as a point of reference, as those are presumably bound by the same regulations. Nevertheless, a non-conform building does not provide any legal basis for using similar solutions, thus the decision should not be founded merely on the surroundings of the site.

Due to the above factors, obtaining the assistance of an architectural designer in the plot selection stage is an option definitely worth considering. This way, you will be able to acquire information in due time on the legal aspects of the construction process as well as the general feasibility of the project.

Tamás Péter Berkes