About the Red Book


The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide is a comprehensively updated and revised version of its predecessor, the Guidelines for Human Settlement Planning and Design, commonly known as the Red Book. The Red Book, published in 2000, was preceded by a series of guideline documents aimed at improving the quality of settlement planning and design.

The understanding of human settlements has evolved significantly internationally and locally during the past two decades. This, together with substantial shifts in priorities and values, prompted the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) to embark on a process to revise and update the 2000 Red Book. The intention was to develop a document that would give guidance on local responses to global challenges, especially climate change and its relation to the built environment, and to bring the theoretical approaches to settlement making in line with the latest research and current thinking as reflected in various government policies, programmes, frameworks and strategies.

The DHS embarked on an extensive and inclusive process to produce a document that would provide practical neighbourhood planning and design guidance and contribute to the development of settlements that are vibrant, safe, integrated and inclusive. The DHS appointed the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to manage the process of developing the new Red Book, coordinate the various contributors and prepare the final document.


Purpose and nature of the Red Book

The purpose of this Guide is to provide practical information related to the planning and design of the range of services and infrastructure typically provided as part of a neighbourhood development project. The application of the guidelines should ultimately result in the delivery of infrastructure and services that are effective and efficient and that contribute to the creation of sustainable human settlements.

Sustainable human settlements are liveable, vibrant, diverse, resilient and valued; they are socially integrated, economically inclusive places where residents feel safe and in which economic growth and social development are in balance with the carrying capacity of the natural systems on which they depend for their existence.

It is essential to keep the following in mind:

  • The guidelines are not prescriptive and require interpretation informed by the application context. They should not be regarded as minimum standards or regulations. Guidelines in general are intended to assist decisionmaking, whereas standards are normally considered as measurable, enforceable limits. Both the rigid application of guidelines and the setting of inappropriate standards often have the opposite effect to what was intended.
  • This Guide is not a substitute for professional or practical experience and it recognises the importance of professional responsibility where applicable.
  • Judgement should always be exercised based on the actual circumstances. The Guide includes information about good practices and aims to encourage innovation and creativity.

Target users

This Guide contains information relevant to all built environment practitioners, but particularly those involved in the planning and design of human settlements, particularly neighbourhood development projects. It is intended to provide support to both the private and public sectors. Potential users of the guidelines include the following:

  • Built environment professionals and practitioners, including engineers (civil, transportation, electrical, etc.), urban planners, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, etc.
  • Active citizens and community groups involved in people-driven housing development initiatives.
  • Decision-makers, influencers and those who are required to develop policy, including local government councillors.
  • Residents (communities) and others who need information that will enable them to better understand the consequences of decisions related to the provision of services and infrastructure.
  • Tertiary institutions, particularly students and lecturers involved in the built environment professions.

Postal address
The Department of Human Settlements
Private Bag X644

Call centre
0800 146873


If you would like to receive information
regarding training events, revisions,
amendments and other updates related
to the Red Book, please register here.

The Neighbourhood Planning and Design Guide
Creating Sustainable Human Settlements

Developed by
Department of Human Settlements

Published by the South African Government
ISBN: 978-0-6399283-2-6
© 2019