Classification of the Building Project

Find out about how the classification of land use and construction affects which building permit is required...

Classification of Activity or Land Use

Before applying for a building permit, the category a building project falls into must be decided so the appropriate permit is applied for. The different categories are:


There are a few categories under this land use, which include:

  • R1/Residencia Unifamiliar (Single Family Residential), only one housing unit per plot
    R2/ Prédio Residencial (Residential Building), more than one housing unit per plot


These may include:

  • S1.9/Serviços de Âmbito Local: Serviços de Saúde (Local Service: Healthcare Services)
  • S3.2/Serviços Especiais: Serviços de Depósito e Armazenagem (Special Services: Warehouse Services)

In most categories of land use for services, if the built area is smaller than 250m2, these buildings can follow the same requirements as residential buildings. The exceptions are automobile repair shops and car washes, which have to follow specific requirements regardless of the area.


There are three types of industrial uses:

  • I1/Indústria Não Incomoda (Non-Inconvenient Industry): this classification has an area totalling up to 500m2 and can follow the same requirements as non-industrial buildings
  • I2/Indústria Diversificada (Diversified Industry): this classification must follow specific requirements regarding the site plan within the plot, access, location, traffic, noise rates and environment pollution, for example
  • I3/Indústria Especial (Special Industry): this classification is for industries that may cause health, safety and welfare problems for the city and affect regional vegetation and animals


There are basically three general types of commercial uses. Further specifications exist under each general category.

  • C1/Comércio Varejista de Âmbito Local (Local Retailer), where the retailer shares a development with residential uses and has a built area of up to 250m2
  • C2/Comércio Varejista Diversificado (Diversified Retailer), where the retailer may or may not share a development with residential uses
  • C3/Comércio Atacadista (Wholesaler), where the wholesaler may or may not share a development with residential uses


There are four types of civic uses. Further specifications exist under each general category.

  • E1/Instituições de Âmbito Local (Local Civic): sharing a development with residential uses with a built area of up to 250m2, or a maximum capacity of 100 people
  • E2/Instituições Diversificadas (Diversified Civic): places with up to 2,500m2 of built area, or a maximum capacity of 500 people
  • E3/Instituições Especiais (Special Civic): civic places with a big concentration of people or cars, high noise levels or special standards
  • E4/Usos Especiais (Special Uses): places with a need for preservation or special control, such as historic landmarks, water basins and strategic places for public safety

Urban restrictions

The Legislation for Land Use (Legislação de Parcelamento, Uso e Ocupação do Solo) has a number of building restrictions, according to the kind of activity and the land use zone where the property is or will be located.

The land use zone is indicated on the property tax bill (IPTU) that the property owner or land owner receives and pays each year, and will indicate the type of use allowed. It is necessary to check what building projects or renovations are allowed and identify any restrictions that should be considered during the project (setbacks, floor area ratio, building coverage factor for example).

Other restrictions to building plans may include:

Special Front Yard Setback of a property: This refers to areas in a city (usually specific blocks on certain streets or avenues) where the front setback is wider than usual for the land use as a result of future road widening plans.

Road Width: Depending on the road width, some types of activity are not allowed. This should be checked with the local authorities.

Note: If the land plot has an area or dimensions smaller than required for that zone, the person must prove the plot's existence prior to 1972.

Construction Classification

The Brazilian Building Code (Código de Obras e Edificações) distinguishes the type of construction, and therefore the building permit, that will be required, according to a number of factors:

  • New construction (Obra Nova): construction of a new building in a completely vacant plot or with the complete demolition of the existing one
  • Refurbishment (Reforma): modification to the existing building by addition or subtraction of the built area, or changes in the structure, vertical compartmentalisation, or mass / shape, with or without change of use
    Note: the construction of a new building in a plot with another building is considered a refurbishment
  • Reconstruction (Reconstrução): construction which aims to recover a building due to fire or other hazards, keeping the building’s previous features
  • Regularization (Regularização): license for a property built or refurbished without a permit, but which follows the legal requirements in place at the time it was done
    Note: the regularization may be asked together with the refurbishment
  • Small Refurbishment (Pequena Reforma): modification to the existing building, with or without change of use, without the addition or subtraction of the built area, or changes in the number of units
  • Change of Land Use (Mudança de Uso): change of activity of a legalized existing building which follows the zoning requirements, which does not change any physical aspects of the property
    Note: the change of activity in a legalized building with features which do not follow the zoning requirements (setbacks, floor area ratio, building coverage factor), might be accepted, according to the city judgment, following the current legislation (Lei 11.228/92 and Resolução Ceuso/85/97)
  • Modification Project (Project Modificativo): the approved project may be changed, since the Construction Permit (Alvará de Execução da obra) is still in force. A second Approval Permit (Alvará de Aprovação) may be asked together with a second Construction Permit
Information prepared by Guilherme Leme and Jacqueline Pezzillo, Davis Brody Bond Aedas Rua Tenente Negrão 90, 8° andar, 04530 -030 São Paulo Tel: (11) 3074 6668 - Fax: (11) 3074 6670 e-mail / Website Copyright © 2009 Davis Brody Bond Aedas All Rights Reserved