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RSMeans' Dollars-per-Square-Foot Construction Costs: Office Buildings and Public Structures

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Accompanying this report are tables and charts based on RSMeans’ measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. The results for 25 major cities are shown in eight type-of-structure categories. The eight structure types come in two major sub-groupings – office buildings and institutional. There is a discussion of which categories of construction are most expensive to build and how the 25 cities rank for construction costs.

Accompanying this report are tables and charts based on RSMeans/' measures of dollar-per-square-foot construction costs. The results for 25 major cities are shown in eight type-of-structure categories. The eight structure types come in two major sub-groupings – office buildings and institutional. Means has updated specifications with regards to its building cost models. For this reason, it is not valid to directly compare this year/'s figures with last year/'s. That is why the percentage change columns read “not applicable”.

Office Building Construction Cost Comparisons

Among office buildings, it is most expensive to build a medical office building. Among “standard” office buildings, it is cheaper to build higher on a square footage basis. For example, a two- to four-story office building is costlier to build than a five- to 10-story office building. An 11- to 20-story office building is another step down in costs. (text continues below table)

Mainly Law Enforcement Buildings

Among public sector projects (i.e., mainly law enforcement), a jail is the most expensive to build, followed by a police station. A courthouse is also relatively expensive to construct − even more per square foot than a medical office building − while a post office has a dollar-per-square-foot cost that is quite inexpensive by comparison. (text continues below table)

New York is the Most Expensive; Cities in the South are Least Expensive

New York has the highest dollar-per-square-foot construction costs in the country. San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia round out the top five. Relatively low-cost cities are mainly in the southeast and southwest, including Miami, Atlanta, Phoenix Houston and Dallas. The nation/'s capital, Washington, is in the lower mid-range for construction costs among the 25 cities considered in the tables and graphs.

Some City Comparisons

It is interesting to make some regional comparisons. It costs about 25% more to build in Chicago than in Atlanta. The relationship is about the same between higher-cost Philadelphia and lower-cost Miami. The mark-up in New York, the most expensive city among the 25 shown, and Winston Salem, the least expensive, is about two-thirds or 66%.

by Alex Carrick

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