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Price of constructing apartments sky-high in these European cities

Dublin. Copyright Canva.
Copyright Canva.
By Eleanor Butler
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A new Irish report compares the cost of building the same apartment in ten European cities.


The Swiss city of Zurich and the Irish capital Dublin top the price rankings in a recent report on construction costs across Europe.

Data released this week by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland and Trinity College Dublin looks at the price of building the same unit across ten cities.

The benchmark was a block of 39 apartments over seven or more storeys, containing mostly two-bedroom dwellings.

According to the report, the cost of building this kind of apartment in Zurich is around €2,866 per square metre, the highest figure recorded.

This was followed by Dublin, Manchester, Stockholm, and then Glasgow.

Trailing behind on the more affordable end of the spectrum were Birmingham, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Belfast.

The cheapest city studied was Tallinn in Estonia, where building an apartment cost €1,367 per square metre, far below the 10-city average of €2,057 per square metre.

Researchers looked at ‘hard’ costs such as materials but also some ‘soft’ costs such as professional fees and taxes.

“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,”  said Bryn Griffiths, one of the report’s authors and Vice Chair of the SCSI Quantity Surveying Professional Group Committee.

“The designs we are using here [in Ireland] drive higher costs and we believe if planning policy was to adopt alternative approaches and more flexibility, costs could be reduced in this area.”

Dublin, one of the key focuses of the report, has for years been struggling to build enough houses to support its population.

The price of building an apartment block in the Irish capital came to €2,363 per square metre.

According to figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, 13,866 adults and children were in homeless accommodation in Ireland this March - a yearly jump of 16%. 

“Dublin is somewhat cheaper than the typical city for structural works, typically involving concrete,” said Ronan Lyons, Associate Professor of Economics in Trinity College Dublin.

“However, Dublin’s high overall cost is due in particular to two headings”, he added.


Namely, these are “services and equipment, which includes heating, power elevators, and non-structural works, which covers things like floors, windows and carpentry.”

Broader analysis across all surveyed cities nonetheless suggests that the price of resources varies far less than labour costs.

Citing Eurostat figures, the new publication pointed out that in Estonia, the average hourly cost of construction labour is €16.50.

“The most expensive grouping is central European (in particular Germanic) cities, which have the highest hourly labour costs of the cities covered,” the report underlined. “This group includes Zurich, Vienna and Berlin, but also Geneva.”


Authors of the report underlined that more research is needed to compare other factors such as the price of land and detailed regulatory costs.

It should also be noted that figures contained in the report are from the first quarter of 2020.

They were therefore recorded before construction costs skyrocketed due to the pandemic and Europe’s energy price shock.

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