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Building your own home in Sotogrande?…. some guideline to the planning stages!

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If you are new to property development or just building a villa, and particularly not familiar with the Spanish way of doing things, it can be very frustrating finding information on the subject and about contracting architects and builders. As with any process there are stages. Initially the pre-design stage, then the design stage (Anteproyecto), then Outline planning (Proyecto Básico) followed by Detailed Planning stage – Proyecto de Ejecución followed by granting of licenses and approvals and finally the construction stage.

Pre-design Stage

This is the initial design stage where a brief is taken, and preliminary concept designs are produced. In addition, initial enquiries will be made with the local Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) regarding what is permissible.

Each project should start with an initial consultation. Architects should cover all the points highlighted below. If not make sure you ask.

  1. Explanation fully how they work and the service you can expect.
  2. How fees are calculated.
  3. Inform you of the processes and about timeframes.
  4. Review your requirements (initial ideas and budget) so they can recommend next steps.
  5. Visit the plot, and consider features, (trees, slopes, orientation) which might impact on the design.
  6. They should meet with local authorities and check the proposed project is within the “certificado urbanístico” for the plot. This certificate attests planning permission requirements, permissible build area, and restrictions, which could apply.
  7. Thereafter they should prepare an initial proposal including outline budget and pre-planning requirements.
  8. You should also receive a comprehensive document explaining everything you have discussed and show each step of the process and all legal requirements.
  9. They should provide you with a comprehensive contract, which will be in Spanish and English.

 Design Stage – Anteproyecto

Based upon consultation with the design team, you should begin to see your project take shape via sketches, floor plans and basic 3D imagery. The architect and design team will re-work the plan and visuals as necessary to ensure we arrive at a design that you are 100% happy with.

Outline Planning stage – Proyecto Básico

Outline planning permission to obtain in principle with approval of the design and project parameters. Basic architectural plans showing site plan, floor plans, sections and elevations are produced. Upon agreement of the final architectural design, Proyecto Básico plans are submitted to the local authority to secure initial planning permission. Once approved, the design team take the project to a greater level of detail discussing elements such as fixtures and fittings, floor and wall finishes, window and door styles, lighting…every aspect of your project is covered to facilitate the production of a complete project specification necessary to produce an itemized final construction quote.

Detailed Planning stage – Proyecto de Ejecución

This stage is highly detailed with considerable project documentation required for the final building license. It incorporates architectural plans, working drawings, survey reports, building control and standards documents, bills of quantities, Health and Safety Plan, plot and ownership documentation and utility supplier certificates.  If one thing is missing it could hold the application up for weeks, so it is important to be thorough and organized in the execution of the project documents. The project plans and some other documents within the project must also be approved and stamped by the College of Architects prior to submission to the Ayuntamiento. The architect will then submit the stamped project, Proyecto de Ejecución, to your local Ayuntamiento who may take anywhere between 3-6 months to issue the final license.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would need further input. I may not know the answer to all enquiries, but I do know who has!!!

Disclaimer: The content of this document is provided for guidance only, and while every effort has been made by me 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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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 that 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 Techincal 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’s regulations. Obtaining a license can take anything from 3- 6 months depending on your area. The cost of this license can be between 3 – 5% of the total build cost. Blueray manages this process as part of their service.


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 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 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 on the Costa del Sol 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 Atchitects.



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 Tecnico (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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