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Building your home in Sotogrande…..SOME Useful Terminology TO UNDERSTAND

Design Architect

Architects working in Spain must be registered with the Colegio de Arquitectos (COA – College of Architects) to be able to submit projects. A registered architect will be able to supply his registration number which can be checked with the COA. Architects are legally obliged to have professional insurance.

Technical Architect

A technical architect (TA), also known as an Aparajador, is required on all projects, which necessitate a Licencia de Obra Mayor, in other words, any building work of a structural nature. The TA is a cross between a Structural Engineer, Quantity Surveyor and Building Inspector. The TA must be registered with the Cadiz College of Technical Architects (COAT) in order to legally carry out the various functions he/she fulfils. This role carries enormous responsibility so the TA must have professional insurance cover. A building project must legally have a TA performing the Dirección de Obra role, which is a function performed in close collaboration with the Design Architect. Amongst other things, the TA will produce bills of quantities, produce monthly certifications of work carried out and check  build elements for conformity. He or she will liaise closely with the Project Manager and Site Manager.

 Architects Fees

The College of Architects (COA) issues guidelines for Architects’ fees which consider the scale and type of work involved. As a rule of thumb, you can assume between 8 – 11% of the projected construction cost for a Design Architect and then 30% of that cost for the Technical Architect. A point to clarify well is what is included in the fees you are quoted but also what is not included.

Building Licenses

Obra Menor (Minor Works)

In Southern Spain you need a license to do just about anything to a property; re-tile a bathroom, put up a new fence or change your windows; such work would come under an Obra Menor license obtained from the Ayuntamiento. They are relatively easy and quick to obtain, you will need to state the type of work you are doing and the estimated cost from which the fee will be calculated. This type of license is usually ready in 2- 4 weeks, depending on your area and providing that all the documentation required is provided on applying.

Obra Mayor (Major Works)

Obra Mayor covers anything that alters the physical floor layout or footprint of the building. There are different rules, in different towns, applied differently, all depending on where your plot or property is situated. You may also be governed by your urbanisation regulations. Obtaining a license can take anything from 3- 6 months depending on your area. The cost of this license can be between 3 – and 5% of the total build cost.

Licencia de Primera Ocupación

The First Occupation License will be granted by the Ayuntamiento once all work has been completed and all taxes paid. Until this has been obtained an official connection to utility services will not be possible.


Some urbanizations, such as Sotogrande, must be consulted on the property design prior to obtaining licenses to ensure compliance with urbanization building regulations.

License Time Limits

Rules surrounding limits depend on the local Ayuntamiento. Building work must commence within 6-12 months from obtaining a license and be completed within 3 years. In the event of over run, the license must be reapplied for and paid for again. It may be possible to extend a license but only if it is still valid.

Building Reports

Topographical Report

Due to the terrain in some areas of Sotogrande, it may be necessary to have a Topographical Report carried out, depending on your plot and the type of design. In some cases this will be required by the Town Hall and College of Architects and may be necessary for the Architect and for producing good 3D images.

Geotechnical Report

This report may be necessary to ascertain the type of terrain you have. The report will indicate the type of foundations required, depth and concrete strength, necessary to ensure the safety of the build. If the plot is on a steep gradient a subsidence risk study may also be required.

Health and Safety Study

Every construction project has to have a Health and Safety Study and a qualified Health & Safety Co-ordinator to oversee its implementation on site. The study and the Co-ordinator role are very important as without them insurances will not be valid. The study has to be approved and stamped by the College of Architects.

Design & Build Insurances


The Architect and Technical Architect must have professional insurance to cover themselves in the event of any claim against them. In addition if they carry out the Dirección Facultativo role in relation to a project they must also have a separate policy, which covers them for that particular project.

As under Spanish law ultimate responsibility for the project rests with the ‘promotor’ i.e. the client, it is imperative that all insurances legally required by the various parties involved are adequate and current.

Building: Seguro Decenal

This insurance is a 10 year building guarantee policy and is legally required on all new build properties. The client would not be able to re-sell the property within 10 years if this was not in place. In addition an Organismo de Control Técnico (OCT) is required to guarantee the policy. This is an independent company who check the work carried out to protect the Seguro Decenal insurers risk.

Building: Todo Riesgo Construcción

A comprehensive building works insurance that should cover accidents to personnel and site visitors, building/property damage, fire and theft.

Other Information

Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)

Although Town Halls follow National Building Laws each one has its own set process and requirements.

Dirección Facultativa

The involvement of the Design Architect and the Technical Architect during the construction phase is collectively known as the Dirección Facultativa. This is a legal requirement with any Obra Mayor to ensure that every aspect of the construction adheres to the original design and building regulations. The Architect and Technical Architect work closely with the Project Manager.

Spanish Bureaucratic Processes

There are numerous regulations, obligations, and licensing and certification conditions. Local Ayuntamiento requirements can vary considerably, with differing procedures and documentation requirements. Some companies leave clients and their lawyers to manage certain aspects associated with a project; others feel this approach can lead to complications including time delays and escalating costs to the client and are happy to manage the process for clients.

Disclaimer: The content of this document is provided for guidance only, and while every effort has been made by the author to ensure the accuracy of the information and translations contained, no liability can be accepted for any error’s omissions and inaccuracies, or for the opinions expressed herein.


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