September 01, 2004. Pattaya, Thailand Home construction and zoning issues. House blueprint or plan approval depends on who does the plan. Architect. Is the architect the same one who will approve the plan?
My introduction to the Planning Czar was as an architect. He has an office across from the planning commission and we (the wife and I) went in and looked at some house plans. Then he told me his fee and I said it was too much and we left -- and I thought that was that!
Later, come to find out, this planning czar is an appointed political office holder. There are many of these czars around the Pattaya area, the Thai name would be ough bough dough.
Here is how this scam works. There really is no zoning per se in Thailand. In fact in outlying areas there is much less regulation than in and around Pattaya. Around Pattaya the system is this. You need to have your building plans (blue prints) approved before you build. The plan approval is a necessary step to getting an address and house book. Without these you cannot get electrical, mail delivery etc. Once the building starts there is no on-site inspection. The building and the results there of are up to the builder.
Now, it just so happens that all of these planning czar are also architects. And the funny thing is they just don't like other people's work, so if you are unlucky enough to have another architect do your house plan you are in for some pain.
In my case, once the error of my ways was pointed out to me, I went back to the Planning Czar and cut a deal. He was actually quite reasonable - taking a percentage of the construction budget. I've heard in the city proper it is much worse, that is about 5 times worse. In my case his cut was 3 % of the construction budget. Other point here, I did need to state a low but reasonable budget and convince him it was reasonable. It doesn't matter in the end how much the project really costs to complete (ie. we are talking about a projected budget only).
Only later did I realize that the Planning Czar isn't really an architect. Oh sure, they had a computer with a CAD program which could produce a set of plans. But the operator of the program didn't have much experience I gather. One example: we picked a house out of a book and changed the overall shape a bit. This was fed into the computer, but no adjustments were made from taking a square house and making it in to a rectangular house. First off, the height of the roof supporting metal should have been automatically adjusted to keep the roof pitch the same. The concept here is: say your house is 10 meters square and you change the dimensions to 10 meters by 8 meters. Since now the house is only 8 meters wide (instead of 10 meters), the height of the roof needs to be adjusted to yield the same pitch. This basic concept was either not understood or just not done.
There are other things that the Planning Czar couldn't ever really do either. For example, produce a consistent set of plans. The plan book is about 16 pages of all different aspects to the house. I kept pushing for one final consistent copy, but couldn't get it done without paying more money. So in one view the house has the parking lot on the right and in one view on the left. It is a matter of noting it with the workmen, who after a while can mentally adjust in their head where the parking lot 'really' is. So, I could live with this. But I insisted on making the point, 'If you are really architects can't you see why it is a good idea to have a consistent set of plans?'. This logic got me nowhere.
Now in case you're thinking it isn't as cut and dry as this: when we went for the final approval the Planning Czar was out of the office. We went in the office and met with one of his underlings. He started in on the 'maximum pain' plan, telling us with a pained expression what we would need to fix and do, when just then the Planning Czar walked in the room and slapped him on the back and exclaimed 'This is one of my plans!'. To which they both had a good laugh and we were informed that we were on easy street, didn't need to do anything except come back in 4 days to get the house papers.
In any event, this is just one of those fact of life things in Thailand. It isn't about bribe money, since if you walk in to the Planning Czar and offer him a bribe he won't take it. (This has been tried by other). He doesn't need to, why not keep his operation above board? He is hooked into a percentage of all building going on in the area. In government here there just is no concept of conflict of interest.
For building projects here is what I recommend. First off, get a real architect to do a real plan up front. This should be as detailed as you can get and definitely include an electrical plan. It should have all the window layout exactly, the position of the toilets in the bathroom, the kitchen layout, etc. Then before starting go into the Planning Czar and strike a deal. This means he will need to do a duplicate plan and you will need to pay, but remember that this is money to get the address -- not for the plan. This needs to be done carefully so that it doesn't seem like it is a bribe! State you case like this: my friend is building a house and had these plans drawn up -- and I want to do a project just exactly like it.
This page was last updated October 2nd, 2009