Boring but Essential • Design & Build

If you are about to embark on a design or building project in Spain it can be very frustrating finding comprehensive information you can trust.

We certainly found that whilst researching for our business and we had over 25 years’ experience in the UK!

Here we explain some of the terminology and outline the processes related to architects, building and designing on the Costa del Sol.

any questions? don’t hesitate to contact us.



• Architect

• Technical Architect

• Fees





• Anteproyecto (Design Stage)

• Proyecto Basico (Project Basics)

• Proyecto Ejecucion (Detailed Project)

• Dirección Facultativo





• Obra Menor (Minor Works)

• Obra Mayor (Major Works)

• Licencia de Primera Ocupación

• License Time Limits





• Topographical Plan

• Geotechnical Survey

• Health and Safety Study





• Architects Insurance

• Responsibilidad Civil (Public Liability)

• Todo Riesgo Construccion

• Seguro Decenal & OCT





• General Advice


It is important to choose the right architect not only from a design perspective but also to appoint one that is well versed with the planning department and the regulations of your particular area. We are particularly experienced working with Mijas, Marbella, Benahavis and Estepona Town Hall planning departments.


Architects working in the Malaga province must be registered with the Malaga Colegio de Arquitectos (COA – College of Architects) to be able to submit plans to the COA. 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.


As well as responsibility for producing architectural project plans and accompanying documentation the architect has a specifically defined role during the construction stage. A building project must legally have an architect performing the Dirección de Obra role, which is a function performed in close collaboration with the Technical Architect, collectively known as the Dirección Facultativo – see separate entry under Project Stages for more detail on this.


A technical architect (TA), also known as an Aparejador, is required on all projects which necessitate a Licencia de Obra Mayor, in other words any building work of a structural nature. The UK equivalent of the TA is a cross between a Structural Engineer, Quantity Surveyor and Building Inspector. The TA must be registered with the Malaga 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, collectively known as the Dirección Facultativo – see separate entry under Project Stages for more detail on this.


The Malaga College of Architects (COA) issues guidelines for Architects fees which take into account the scale and type of work involved. Architects generally adhere to these scales. 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. The projected construction cost is not a true construction cost, it is a lower estimate. A point to clarify well is what is included in the fees you are quoted and conversely what is not included.


When we quote for a design project we also include estimates of all other costs you will incur so you have a true picture of your total outlay.


An architectural project has four main stages. Design fee payments are directly proportionately related to the stages.


During this stage the principle attributes of the design will be outlined taking into account the client bfief.


This stage is more or less outline planning permission to obtain principal approval of the design and project parameters. Basic architectural plans showing dimensions and position are submitted to the COA for approval and then to the Town Hall (Ayunatmiento). In many cases, depending on the project, this stage will be bypassed. It is really a safety check to ensure that preliminary plans and ideas meet regulations to avoid wasting time and money.


This stage is highly detailed with considerable project documentation required for the final building license. Amongst other things 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. One thing missing and it could hold the application up for weeks so it is important to totally understand the requirements from each Town Hall and to be thorough and organised in the execution of the project documents. The project plans and some other documents within the project must also be stamped first by the COA and then submitted to the Ayuntamiento.


A Final Building Project, is sometimes required if there have been significant changes to the plan during the construction phase. It would be needed before the first occupation license could be obtained.


The continued roles of the Architect and Technical Architect throughout the construction phase is known as the Dirección Facultativo. 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 role is usually quoted for as part of the design phase. Be aware that any quotes will not usually include the Technical Architects role, this is covered by the Technical Architect direct.


Each Town Hall has its own procedures and documentation requirements for licensing. Fees and payment terms also vary. We are particularly experienced working with Mijas, Marbella, Benahavis and Estepona Town Hall planning departments.


You need a license to do just about anything to a property although some Town Halls have a fast track procedure for certain minor work. This license is relatively easy and quick to obtain but must be submitted in Spanish in person, accompanied by various documents and official quotes. The license is usually ready in 2- 4 weeks, depending on your area, the level of work and providing that all the documentation required is provided on applying. Fees are generally around 5% of the build cost. Some Town Hall procedures are tiresome whilst others have tried to simplify things. We always submit licenses on behalf of our clients.


(Major Works) Most people assume that this type of license is only required for new build projects, this is not the case. Obra Mayor covers anything that alters the physical floor layout, structural integrity, footprint of the building or façade in terms of apertures.


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


You may also be governed by your urbanisation’s regulations. For example La Zagaleta must be consulted on the property design prior to obtaining licenses to ensure compliance with urbanization building regulations. In such cases the Town Hall will require this approval prior to issuing any licenses.


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


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



For any building project a Topographical plan will be required as part of the project documentation. It is a plan which charts the contours and levels of the plot, including significant trees, service supply points and any existing structures. This report would also be used when legal confirmation of a plot and/or building size is required.


This survey may be necessary to ascertain the type of terrain you have to ensure the safety of the build. A project on a plot with a gradient over 15% will certainly require a survey. The report will indicate the depth and type of foundations required. A subsidence risk study may also be required for a steep plot.


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 co-ordinator role is often undertaken by the Technical Architect. 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.


Obviously insurances details and requirements will vary by project so we can only offer a brief overview of the types you should be aware of. Ask to see copies of policies to ensure they are current.


Blueray is insured by Allianz, a leading insurer, for Responsibilidad Civil and Todo Riesgo.


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.


We strongly advise you to ensure your building contractor has appropriate insurances in place including Public Liability insurance which will cover accidental damage to third parties.


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


This insurance is a 10 year building guarantee policy; it is legally required on all new build properties. In addition, an Organismo de Control Tecnico (OCT) is required to guarantee the policy. The OCT makes regular certified checks for the duration of the project to ensure proper and legal building practice. The level of cover can be basic through to fully comprehensive. Without this insurance a new property could not be sold within 10 years.



We strongly advise you to have a contract with any company you employ to protect you in the event of disagreement. If you have any issues and want legal redress, it will be the first thing a lawyer will ask to see and obviously it strengthens your position.


The contract should include timeframes, guarantees, payment terms and a comprehensive detailed quotation.



We would like to add that whilst it is definitely a more bureaucratic process taking on any type of building project on the Costa del Sol it doesn’t have to be stressful for you.


Providing a project is managed correctly, every detail is planned, and professional experts and tradesmen are employed then it will be a trouble-free, risk-free adventure.


Don’t take our word for it, see what our clients and contractors say about us.

Whilst we try to make sure the information contained on our website is up to date we cannot guarantee the accuracy of it and advise you to seek up to date advice at the appropriate time and in relation to your particular circumstances.

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