Building codes determine the conditions builders must meet to construct, repair, and demolish buildings and facilities within an administrative unit’s boundaries. They are administrative decisions issued by local administrative units’ councils and approved by the governorates and the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.
Each administrative unit in Syria issues its own building code according to the criteria of that area’s zoning plans and based on any relevant urban planning laws in effect. Building codes determine, among other issues, what percentage of a real estate plot may be built upon, the height of each storey, and the distances between buildings and other regulations, among other things.
Under the Urban Planning Law, issued in Decree No. 5 of 1982 and its amendments, urban planning in an area includes issuing building codes for residential complexes and any general and detailed zoning plans.
Administrative units are responsible for building codes in their local residential areas. Administrative units then announce their codes and invite local stakeholders to review it and present any objections within a 30-day period. Afterwards, the codes are issued via decrees by the Minister of Housing and the local administrative units of any remaining cities and towns in the governorate. Building codes that have already been approved may be amended one year after their issuance and any subsequent updates every three years.
In addition to Syria’s local administrative units, historic city centres within such units, as well as industrial zones and tourism sites, have their own special building codes. Rules in these areas have additional conditions related to the zoning plans and, if applicable, historic legal specifications already in place for heritage sites.
Builders may not obtain construction, restoration, repair, or building completion permits without the approval of the administrative unit’s local council, which decides whether the proposed activity conforms with existing building codes.
Decree No. 40 and building codes
Decree No. 40 of 2012, which focuses on unlicensed buildings, states that anyone who breaks a building code may face three months to a year of imprisonment. Violations include exceeding building height limits or building setback regulations, i.e. constructing structures outside the zoning plans.
The decree also stipulates one to three years of prison for anyone who constructs unlicensed buildings that violate building code, i.e. by constructing more than the permitted number storeys or by removing the soil completely or partially beneath the buildings’ foundations.
At the same time, Decree No. 40 allowed for administrative units to settle any violations committed before the decree was issued provided that perpetrators have breached building code requirements, i.e. certain duties, storeys, setbacks, and surface area. In order to settle a violation, the decree requires a technical report approved by the Engineers’ Syndicate proving that the building in question is capable of bearing the appropriate number of storeys allowed by building code.
Prime Ministerial Circular No. 15/271, issued in April 2017, focused on construction requirements and conditions for obtaining construction permits. One of the conditions for finishing construction on existing buildings is for these structures to become compatible with the building code.