Top 10 costliest cities for construction

By Dominic Ellis
The Arcadis International Construction Costs Report 2021 is dominated by leading European cities...

Reseach for the Arcadis International Construction Costs 2021 report was completed during the second, and much stronger wave of the pandemic, and covered 100 cities. Encouragingly, it found most construction markets remained stable during the year, showing high levels of resilience in the face of extreme market disruption.

This year’s index varies from last year’s iteration with European cities taking the top five spots due to currency fluctuations in 2020 as well as a recovery in prices of commodities. With modest levels of inflation and some spare capacity, construction industries in most countries are well positioned to make their contribution to recovery.

Here are the top 10 ranked cities by construction costs.


10: Macau

Macau is one of two Asian entrants in the top 10 - Tokyo just misses out in 11th spot - although it regularly appears at the top end of construction cost rankings. Macau casino concessionaire Wynn Macau is set to open some Phase 2 features of its Wynn Macau expansion within the first half of 2021, according to reports.

09: Dublin

Occupying ninth place on the list, Dublin has been grappling with spiralling construction costs, placing pressures on private apartments and social housing. The Irish Home Builders Association has forecast supply falling as low as 13,000 units this year, although this is expected to rise to 23,000 units next year. 


08: Hong Kong

Mean download speed: 27.16Mbps

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07: San Francisco

Despite the manifold challenges presented by the pandemic - fall in demand, absence of leasing activity and thousands of office job losses - San Francisco remains a supply-constrained market and continues to appeal to companies and investors. The recovery may be slow but San Fran is nonetheless the seventh costliest place to build. 

06: New York City

For the second year in a row, New York City topped the leaderboard as one of the most developed smart cities in the world. With a population sitting above 8.5 million, New York City uses 1 billion gallons of water each day. As part of its smart city plan, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection is deploying a large-scale Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system to get a better snapshot of water consumption, while giving customers a useful tool to check their water use each day. The city has also turned to Bigbelly solar powered “smart” bins which monitor trash levels and ensures waste pick-up is scheduled regularly.

05: Zurich

In 2012, Switzerland’s largest city ensured it was future-proofed with its ‘Strategien Zurich 2025’ framework. Additional lines are being added to its Züricher Verkehrsbetriebe network, more train and tram lines are to come, whereas a switch from diesel buses to electrified trolleybuses will help safeguard the environment. Most excitingly, an underground logistics network – Cargo Sous Terrain – will transport goods via tunnels, using automation.

04: Oslo

Norway’s capital’s Smart Oslo project has the stated aim of making the city smarter and greener as well as more inclusive and creative. It offers a large suite of apps for citizens, allowing such diverse activities as payments for parking, access to statistics and reporting of local issues. The city is testing initiatives such as electric buses and the retrofitting of old buildings with greener energy systems, while also ensuring construction sites reduce their carbon footprints thanks to zero-emissions tenders.

03: Copenhagen

Copenhagen is pursuing its smart city initiative with gusto, targeting achievements in the short term such as becoming 100% carbon neutral by 2025. Other initiatives include the likes of improving access to data, long term planning to protect the environment and partnerships between the private and public sector. On that last point, the city says that its efforts have a clear economic imperative. Some 250 companies are involved in smart city activities, with two thirds of those being “small” companies.

02: London

Boasting the world’s first underground railway network, under-river tunnel, international airport and orbital ring road, London has a track record for innovation. Today, 43% of journeys are completed using public transport, while developments such as HS2, Crossrail and the proposed Crossrail 2, seek to further increase capacity and connectivity for the global business hub.

01: Geneva

The first of two Swiss cities on this list, demonstrating the country’s focus in this area, Geneva’s smart city ambitions act as a model for the rest of the world, not least because of its diplomatic clout as the HQ of UN organisations such as the World Health Organisation. One initiative saw the installation of sensors throughout the city to provide information, such as free parking spaces, and measure traffic noise. The city is partnering with companies such as SIG to transition to sustainable local energy sources.


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