Press Release: New cost construction report shows Dublin is the second most expensive of ten cities for apartment construction

Press Release: New cost construction report shows Dublin is the second most expensive of ten cities for apartment construction

Press Release: New cost construction report shows Dublin is the second most expensive of ten cities for apartment construction

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The report, which illustrates the construction costs of building the same apartment block in different locations across Europe, shows Dublin is €300 per sqm above the average

Zurich was the most expensive with the Estonian capital Tallinn the cheapest

One of the most surprising findings was that Belfast – 140 Kms from Dublin – was the second cheapest

Wednesday 3rd July 2024:  A new construction cost report covering ten cities across Europe has found Dublin to be the second most expensive place to build apartments, after Zurich in Switzerland.

The report, which was compiled by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and Trinity College Dublin, found the cost of building an apartment was €2,363 per square metre, just over €300higher than the average across the ten cities surveyed, of €2,057 per sqm.

Zurich was the most expensive of the ten cities, at €2,866 per sqm, a level of cost notably above the other cities, while the Estonian capital of Tallinn was the cheapest at €1,367 per sqm.  

One of the most surprising findings of the report was that Belfast, the second largest city on the island of Ireland, emerged as the second cheapest location in which to build apartments. The cost per square metre there was €1,755.

The report, which includes both ‘hard’ and some but not all ‘soft’ costs, is the first to use International Construction Management Standards V3 (ICMS3) to compare construction costs, across multiple markets. To do this, it employs a ‘travelling box’ exercise, where a specific apartment block is priced across different cities. This means that the quantities involved across nearly 80 elements are held constant, enabling a systematic comparison of costs, on a like-for-like basis, to be made across locations.

In this case, the chosen development was a block of 39 apartments over seven storeys, most of which were two-bedroom apartments. (For full details, including costs included/excluded, see Note to Editor).

After Zurich two other groups emerge. The second, which had costs closer to but still above the average, included three British cities (Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow) as well as Dublin and Stockholm. In this group, the per-square-metre cost varied from €2,079 to €2,363.

The final grouping had costs below the average and included Amsterdam, Belfast, Brussels and Tallinn, where the per-square-metre cost varies from €1,367 to €1,823. There was a significant gap between Tallinn and the next cheapest city, Belfast, with the cost per square metre in the Estonian capital more than 20% cheaper.

Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics in Trinity College Dublin, one of the authors of the report, said the findings highlight the challenge of high construction costs in Dublin in particular as a barrier to new housing supply.

“For some time, we have known that Dublin is an expensive place to build housing, with costs per square metre high compared to peer locations. This is something that has affected the ability of the housing system here to build the volume of homes needed. This report is the first to break down that high-level figure into the different components that go into building a home.”

“Dublin is somewhat cheaper than the typical city for structural works, typically involving concrete. However, Dublin’s high overall cost is due in particular to two headings – services and equipment, which includes heating, power elevators, and non-structural works, which covers things like floors, windows and carpentry.”

“Across all cities, the analysis indicates that the price of materials varies far less than more labour-intensive inputs. This means that the cost and productivity of labour in construction plays a significant role in driving overall differences in construction costs. Supply chain considerations appear to be less important, with for example, Belfast – located just over 140Kms from Dublin – one of the cheapest locations among the ten surveyed.”

“Further analysis is required to explore why many other building elements are more costly in Dublin compared to Belfast. In particular, in addition to the role of labour productivity, policymakers need to understand the role played by regulatory specifications and standards, as well as differences in soft costs, in affecting overall viability.”

Bryn Griffiths, Vice Chair of the SCSI Quantity Surveying Professional Group Committee and one of the authors of the report said policymakers must look closely at hard costs to better understand differences in residential construction costs across cities.

“This report shows that on average structural costs, non-structural costs and services and equipment make up two thirds of the cost of apartment construction. Some of the soft costs in the report such as preliminaries, risk and taxes make up a further 25%. The more expensive cities such as Zurich and Dublin tend to be more expensive right across the board.”

“This survey compared the price of a Swiss apartment block if it were built in the ten cities, and it is clear that this design is architecturally very different to what we would deliver in Ireland. The designs we are using here drive higher costs and we believe if planning policy was to adopt alternative approaches and more flexibility, costs could be reduced in this area.”

“Compared to other EU member states, Ireland has a relatively low VAT rate on new construction. If VAT rates were zero, Dublin would rank as the fifth most expensive city, with a cost similar to the British cities included in the survey. This explains some of the differences in costs with Belfast.”

“While the report does not advocate the abolition of VAT here it does call on the Government to examine the way zoned and serviced development land is delivered to the market in other European countries. By doing this we believe it could identify new models for the more cost-effective delivery of key road and utility connections.”

“The Government should also consider the findings in the context of adopting additional standardisation of housing design and construction in an effort to drive down costs while it should also commission research to examine ‘soft costs’ across similar jurisdictions and building designs covered in this report to identify additional areas to reduce costs.”

“One of the main objectives of this report was to provide a baseline for similar exercises in future years, which could be expanded to include other cities and indeed other property types. There is an opportunity here to better understand costs and to improve the viability and affordability of new homes. We would urge Government to avail of it.”

For media queries please call the SCSI at (01) 6445500 and ask for Patrick King.

Note to Editor

This study uses the ICMS3 framework to compare construction costs for a fixed project across multiple markets. Quantity surveyors in ten cities across seven countries were surveyed, utilising the ICMS3 framework to estimate costs for an apartment block initially built in Switzerland. Designed in 2011, this building was proposed for use by Eurostat as the ‘standard apartment’ for capturing residential building costs; its specifications were revised to meet standards prevailing in 2020.

The aim was to calculate the cost of building the apartment block as of the first quarter of 2020, before the onset of Covid-19 and global price instability. This report employs a ‘travelling box’ exercise, where quantities involved in building the home are standardised, and held constant across survey responses, to allow for systematic cost comparisons across locations.

This report includes both ‘hard costs’ and ‘soft costs’, along with some exclusions. For the purposes of this report, ‘hard costs’ include ICMS3 elements such as earthworks, equipment, and services (ICMS3 Groups 01- 07). Similarly, ‘soft costs’ refer to ICMS3 elements indirectly related to construction and often calculated on a percentage basis of hard costs, in particular ICMS3 Groups 08-10, which cover preliminaries, risk, and taxes.

Costs not covered in this report include site acquisition, professional, development and connection fees, finance costs, developers’ margins, and marketing costs. The report does not include the financial viability of projects, nor does the research scope include affordability of housing.


The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is the independent professional body for Chartered Surveyors working and practising in Ireland. It works in partnership with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the pre-eminent chartered professional body for the property, land and construction sectors around the world.

The SCSI and RICS act in the public interest: setting and maintaining the highest standards of competence and integrity among the profession; and, providing impartial, authoritative advice on key issues for business, society and governments. The SCSI, which has its headquarters in Merrion Square in Dublin, has over 6,500 members across the 12 surveying disciplines. For more information go to

Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin, founded in 1592 is Ireland’s oldest university and today has a vibrant community of 20,000 students and 3,500 staff. Cutting edge research, technology and innovation places the university at the forefront of higher education in Ireland and globally. It encompasses all major academic fields and is committed to world-class teaching and research across the range of disciplines in the arts and humanities, business, law, engineering, science, social and health sciences. Trinity is ranked 1st in Ireland and in the top 100 world universities by the QS World University Rankings.

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