Advice on building costs

A building is probably the biggest investment that most people will make in their lives and probably one of the bigger investments many businesses make too. Therefore it is extremely important that you understand the costs involved and that you have an architect that understands them. At Miles Sampson Architects we understand how buildings are put together, what elements are expensive and how the construction industry works which has allowed our clients to get contemporary sustainable buildings at very good value. We do not give general building cost guidelines, because so much depends on individual client needs. However we are happy to work with anybody whether your budget is €600/m.sq. or €6000/m.sq. What is important is that you have an experienced designer on board to get the most for your money.


At the start of a project, clients need some guides to price their building against and to establish their budgets. Below we have included some references and advice on general building cost guidelines publically available.

Competitiveness and Increased Costs – UPDATE

Recently, there have been significant challenges in the construction industry, including shortages of personnel and materials, ongoing delivery issues related to Brexit, general inflation, and, of course, the Ukraine invasion. As a result, building costs have increased by up to 40% in some areas since 2021. It will be interesting to see if prices show a downturn or stabilise in the near future as some of these issues begin to level off.

Please exercise caution, as companies are going out of business daily. Ensure you are careful when parting with your money, as the company may no longer exist by the time it comes to delivering the goods. It is extremely important to involve an experienced designer to assist in achieving your desired results. Their fees will easily be recouped through avoided mistakes and the added value of a high-quality building.

Builders guide costs

Most builders in country areas quote a price of €185 per sq.ft as a build cost (about €2000 per meter squared). This is possible, but usually these houses are built to absolute minimum standards, especially in terms of insulation levels. Also these prices usually are for the shell and do not include finishes e.g. kitchen, floors, sanitary ware. A rule of thumb is that it costs a further 40% extra on top of builders’ finish cost to finish the house internally and externally, 20% for internal finishes and 20% for external finishes. Another thing you have to watch for is these prices often don’t include VAT, and in many cases there are claims for extras before the job has even started. Most builders who offer this kind of price will be hesitant to work with Architects, which begs the question; whether you are getting what you think you are.

Institute of Architects cost guide

I have attached a building costs in Ireland guide from the institute of architects, click here to view a copy. As you can see, for a single or two-storey house to “one-off” design, guide prices range from €2,800 – €3,500 per meter squared excluding VAT and external works. While this price may include some designer finishes, it would not necessarily have any better energy rating than the building regulations minimum standard. As you can see, generally architects work to large budgets, so it is extremely important that you discuss what kind of budget your architects works to.

Chartered Surveyors of Ireland

Their construction cost calculator is a good reference point, click here to access it. Guide prices range from €2,153 to €3,213 per meter squared depending on type of house and location in the country. The rebuilding rates quoted – which include VAT – are for estate type homes (not for other house styles such as one-off builds), built to minimum building regulations standards, using typical fossil fuel technology.

Commercial Building Costs

A useful reference for construction costs on commercial buildings is the Bruce Shaw handbook. Click here to view a copy. We would however recommend that you contact us if you are thinking of building any type of commercial building, as these costs can vary hugely depending on so many factors.

VAT rates

Not everybody is aware, but there is a separate VAT rate that builders charge in Ireland which is 13.5%. Builders can only apply this rate if they do the building. It should be noted that if you decide to do a self build that you will end up paying 21.5% on all materials, so sometimes a builder / contractor can be more cost effective than you think.


In addition to guide costs it is important to remember that the efficient management of your project will impact on the finished building costs. In this regard here are a few tips to help you out:

Tender / Contract Built

This is the most commonly used method as it is often necessary on larger projects. Basically a number of contractors / builders will tender for a project based on detailed design information. The main advantage is that a price is agreed for the building, and that is how much it will then cost. There should be no surprises. This way of doing it ensures that the best price is got for the building you want. During the boom years there was the problem that due to shortage of labour supply, builders would often submit outrageous prices for projects, but never the less win them because there was not enough competition. Now with the downturn in the economy the opposite is true, that builders will price below cost just to get the job. An extremely important element of this procedure is the quality of the tender package and this is especially true in tough economic times, because the contract / agreement is based on what is shown in the tender package, and if it is not there then the client has no way of forcing the contractor to include it in the building.

Self Build (actually doing the work yourself)

This is an amazing empowering experience. You will learn skills you have never imagined and feel a great reward for creating something that is truly yours. Beware, people who embark on this option literally take decades to complete their homes and often their circumstances have changed by the time they are built. Savings can be made in the cost of the building, but bear in mind that during the build no salary will be received, and mistakes can often make things cost more than they would have if they had been done by a trained craftsman.

Direct Labour or Self Management

This way of getting a house built is very common in rural parts of Ireland and allows greater control by the client of the final building cost. This is basically where the client acts as the main contractor, coordinating all the subcontractors and trades. There are a few things to be aware of if you choose to embark on this route. There is a lot of work involved in managing this and it is a full time job or at best a part time job for one of the owners. If not enough time is allowed for organisation the it will lead to stress, mistakes and cost overruns for the client. The skills required are managerial, accounting and negotiation skills, often the client will not actually do any building themselves. The biggest advantage of this method is the client does not have to make all the decisions at once, because each element is being priced as the job proceeds.

Which ever route is taken to get the building built it is important to have a skilled architect / designer involved. If you are doing self build or direct labour build, then having somebody to bounce ideas off is invaluable and will ultimately save you in the long run. You will also need somebody at hand to ensure that what is being priced is actually suitable for the job intended. If you go for the contract route then the quality of your drawings and specification are extremely important and require an experienced designer to issue them. It is also imperative that you have professional assistance to ensure that things get done as per the agreed drawings.

We are happy to work with you which ever route you choose; each has some advantages over the other. In any case it is important that you discuss your requirements with us to ensure that you get the best value for money.