New York tops league table of most expensive cities for construction as global skills shortage deepens

  

New York, San Francisco, Zurich, Hong Kong and London top the league table of the most expensive places to build, according to results from the annual research conducted by professional services company Turner & Townsend. Johannesburg is ranked fourth among the top five forecasted construction cost increases.

In their International Construction Market Survey 2017, a major data-led study of construction costs in 43 global markets, it is reported that half of the world’s construction markets are suffering from skills shortages. Labour costs in leading markets have hit new highs, with construction workers in New York and Zurich paid nearly US$100 per hour.

According to the report, global construction costs are set to rise by 3.5 per cent in 2017, reflecting steady economic growth and increasing skills shortages in over half of the world’s markets.

In the light of rising costs and a growing skills crisis, the International Construction Market Survey 2017 (ICMS) calls for increased investment in innovative technologies, new construction methods and better use of data to boost productivity in the sector.

The report analyses input costs – such as labour and materials – and charts the average construction cost per square metre for commercial and residential projects in 43 markets around the world. To identify the most expensive places to build, the average build cost in USD of six different types of construction was assessed: apartment high rise, office block prestige, large warehouse distribution centre, general hospital, primary and secondary school, and shopping centre including mall.

New York has overtaken Zurich as the most expensive city in which to build, with an average cost of US$3 807 per sqm followed by San Francisco (US$3 549 per sqm) and Zurich (US$3 528 per sqm), then Hong Kong (US$3 487.82) and London (US$3 213.99).

London, which ranked third in 2016’s report, has fallen to fifth place behind Hong Kong, despite costs in the city soaring by 5 per cent over the last year.  The fall in ranking reflects the depreciation of the UK pound against the US dollar since the UK referendum on European Union membership in June 2016.

Fifty-eight per cent of cities assessed by the study are identified as ‘warm, hot or overheating’ – where the market is characterised by a high number of projects and intense competition for physical resources and labour that drives up prices.

The number of cities considered to be hot in 2017 has almost doubled since last year and includes New York, Dublin, London, San Francisco, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Dar es Salaam.  Seattle and Bogota are identified by Turner & Townsend to be overheating markets with costs in these cities expected to rise by 5 and 4.4 per cent respectively.

The major exceptions to escalating costs are the commodity-reliant markets of Singapore, Muscat, Kuala Lumpur and Santiago, where the development market has cooled in light of falling global prices for raw materials.