Construction Cost Per Square Foot for Multifamily Housing Based on Construction Type

by Dean Dalvit on June 28, 2016

I recently was working with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in Denver to provide  objective third party opinion of estimated construction costs for an affordable housing project in Denver. We have had the pleasure to work on both market rate as well as affordable housing projects of a variety of sizes in the Denver/Metro area and as a result, have recent data on the costs for those projects.

Every project is unique and has with it a variety of cost driving program elements. Where housing can be as simple as a wood framed three story walk-up product, it can also be complicated in an urban infill site with need for podium structure, tight access and construction limitations. Also, programming can be very different where some projects have virtually no services or amenities and others may have extensive on-site services.

Ovation Apartments in Lone Tree

When we initially budget projects, we use RSMeans for background data, but we have found that this is not a panacea. Especially in areas where the housing boom has sharply increased construction costs and the shortage of skilled labor. So, we use historical data from our own past projects and extract from those the elements that are common to the proposed project. The ranges for this product are generally as follows. Please note that our construction costs do not distinguish between affordable and market rate housing as it is EVstudio’s philosophy that affordable housing should be every bit as high in quality and design than a market rate project. The data below includes very recent design and construction of over 800 units across 6 separate projects in the last year as well as familiarity with other like product. I am showing Suburban and Urban low and mid rise data in order to illustrate the spectrum of costs over product type.

  • Suburban 2-3 story wood frame walk-up with surface parking, no amenities: $130/sq.ft.-$160/sq.ft.
  • Suburban 2-3 story wood frame walk-up with surface parking with amenities: $140/sq.ft.-$170/sq.ft.
  • Urban 2-3 story wood frame walk-up with surface parking with or without amenities: No Data – product not available
  • Suburban 3-6 story wood frame with podium or wrap (parkade or core and shell mixed), no amenities: $150-$180/sq.ft.
  • Suburban 3-6 story wood frame with podium or wrap (parkade or core and shell mixed) with amenities: $160-$190/sq.ft.
  • Urban 3-6 story wood frame with podium (parkade or core and shell mixed), no amenities: $160-$190/sq.ft.
  • Urban 3-6 story wood frame with podium (parkade or core and shell mixed) with amenities: $170-$200/sq.ft.

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The ranges in cost within each category reflect density of units per square foot, level of finish and level of site or building complexity. Please note that this data is for general information only and not to be construed in any way as a bid for construction services or guarantee of any kind for the construction cost of any specific project. EVstudio provides Architecture and Engineering services and only a General Contractor can be bound to guarantees of construction cost.

So, for an example: a 6 story, 101 unit project with 5 stories of framing over 1 story concrete podium in a tight infill site. It has higher than average
density due to smaller units and it offers several sustainable design features. In addition, the program has extensive on-site services. As a result, I would classify the project as an Urban mid rise podium project with amenities and would expect the construction cost to fall within $170 and $200 per square foot.

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EVstudio has expertise in the design of a wide array of Multifamily project types across the country. If you need assistance in programming your project to meet your budget or designing a project to meet the demands of your Pro Forma, that’s what we do. Give us a call at 303-670-7242 – We understand that a project only succeeds when the numbers work.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Dalvit July 6, 2017 at 11:30 am

Andrea, I’m not sure how to help as I cannot see the drawings you are referring to. If any labels on the plans refer to “net”, that would not be the number you want to use as “gross” numbers include all common areas, wall thickness, mechanical spaces, etc. and is the basis of the cost/sq.ft. data shown. As such, if you have building dimensions, then simply take length X width and multiply by 3 for three floors. Hope that helps. If you need further assistance, feel free to email your drawings to design@evstudio.com and we’d be happy to take a look. Thanks!

Andrea July 5, 2017 at 4:01 am

Can any one please help me on how to figure out the square footage of a apartment complex. on the PDF layout it shows the feet on all 4 sides but its about 3 stories. Do I just go by the net square footage that it has on the bottom of the layout. If anyone can please help me I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,

Dean Dalvit June 22, 2017 at 6:11 am

Hi Rocky,

Thank you for your question. We have recently completed a student housing project at UCCS up in North Colorado Springs that shares many of the characteristics that you described. We’re also currently working on one in Greeley that sounds almost identical (making some assumptions without knowing your unit mix of course). Both of those projects fall right around $140-$175 per square foot. These are contractors numbers for direct costs, so several factors will influence a final number, the current increasing costs of construction and general contractor fees and general conditions being at the top of that list.

We’d love to meet with you and learn more about your project. We have a team of MultiFamily experts in Architecture and Engineering in-house and our specific strength is value engineering our projects to ensure that you get the best design for the lowest construction cost. Much easier to do when your Architects and Engineers work on the same team.

Please let me know if you’d like to meet to discuss your project further and we can go from there. I have emailed you separately with all of my contact information. Thanks!

Rocky Manning June 22, 2017 at 12:09 am

Hi Dean,
We are working on a 100 unit apartment complex in SE Colorado Springs, Co. 80816., 79,000 s.f, 3 buildings, 3 story, wood frame walk up, asphalt parking lot with no amenities. No fire sprinkler systems since 100 units or less. We are looking at masonite siding,, formica countertops, mid grade appliance packages, etc. What price per square foot cost can we expect to see for full project?

Dean Dalvit June 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Dan,
Thanks for your question. Prefabricated modular construction for apartments is a highly specialized business. In past cases, they have typically been fabrication shops set up specifically for a particular project as the customization involved creates barriers to scale beyond one project. With that being said, I’m not familiar with any companies that generally offer prefabricated units in the region. However, prefabricated component manufacturing is an entirely different matter. Pre-built walls, floor decks or even palletized mechanical rooms for example can be quite common. It requires the design team to plan for component fabrication on the front end, but when done correctly, can yield a significant savings. EVstudio’s in-house A/E team understands component fabrication and the tightly integrated design that goes in to it. We are also licensed in Arizona and have done these kinds of projects all over the region. If you are looking for a design team that can get you a design that can optimize the cost and time efficiencies of component fabrication, let us know and we can arrange a discussion to learn more about your specific project.

Dan Smith June 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

We are planning to build some low-income apartment buildings in Arizona very soon and started looking at prefab modular construction as a cost saving alternative. However, it doesn’t seem there are any manufacturers in the South West U.S. region who can build and deliver modular apartments. Am I missing something? Are there any conpany’s doing this within 500 miles of, say, Phoenix?

Dean Dalvit February 21, 2017 at 1:12 pm

Luis,
Thanks for your question. I will reach out directly to learn a bit more about your project, but in the meantime and for the benefit of the blog forum, below is a breakdown of most of the key impact fees for the City of Denver:

Permit fees: $5385 for the first $1M of valuation plus $3.65 for each additional $1,000 of valuation
Phasing will add 25% for a 2-phase permit and 50% for three or more phases

Affordable housing assessment: $1.50/square foot

Water tap fee: $1940 per unit in the city of Denver. Outside the City boundary, can be $2,500-$2,710 depending on jurisdiction

Sanitary fees: based on water tap size – 2″ = 92,600; 3″ = $199,090; 4″ = $398,180

Misc fees: Survey review fee = $2,500. Site Development Plan Review = $2,500 plus $500 per acre over 1 acre.

I hope that helps. I look forward to speaking with you!

Luis Cubillos February 17, 2017 at 7:53 am

We are looking to build a 4 story 300+ units walk up multifamily with elevator on 7 to 10 acres in the Denver area. I would like get your feedback on impact fees cost with the city of Denver. Thank you

Dean Dalvit February 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Steve,
In your location, for a low rise wood frame apartment project, you should plan on between $170 and $200 per square foot depending on many factors. This is for the cost of the building only. We’d be happy to take a look at your site for you and see if we can help you get your project off the ground. We have an affiliate in LA and a team of multifamily experts that knows how to design very cost efficient buildings that look and live great. Just let us know how we can help. Thanks!

Steve February 8, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Hello,
I have a question regarding a multi residential lot in Rialto approx. sq ft 19,800. We would like to
build a 2 story apartment bldg. It is not high end housing area. interested in a site review and or
approx. estimate regarding price per sq. ft.

Dean Dalvit January 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Julia,
Thanks for your question. Level of finish will be particularly relevant for your project as you are describing a relatively small project, so it sounds like it may be more boutique. That’s sheer speculation on my part, but condominiums are typically outfitted a bit more nicely than apartments (exceptions always exist of course). In any case, with the first floor commercial, you will have to have fire rated occupancy separation, which puts upward pressure on the cost per square foot. Given your location, I would expect the project to run between $150-$180 per square foot. So a construction budget for the building would be $2.1M-$2.5M. This wouldn’t include land costs, soft costs, finance costs, site improvement costs or FF&E. I hope that helps. We have an expert multifamily and mixed use team that designs projects all over the country. If you are interested in creative but practical architectural design with budget minded engineering to back it up, let us know and we would be happy to help you with your project. Thanks!

Julia January 22, 2017 at 11:11 am

Hi I am looking fior cost estimate for mixed use building in Pleasant View TN. 3000sf of commercial on first floor, plus one ADA condo on first floor, eight two bedroom condos above. 14k sf total, three story Walkup.

Dean Dalvit January 9, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Hakim,
Are you looking for a site study for this lot to better understand what it can support to maximize the number of units? Have you got a number of units and a unit mix in mind? We’re happy to help, but I’d need more information about what you have in mind to be able to establish a budget range. Let me know – thanks.

Hakim January 9, 2017 at 11:14 am

So my wife and I are looking to invest in a multi-family unit,but we prefer to have it built from the ground up. We are located in riverside california. And are currently looking
At a 2.5 acre lot. Please let me know what my options a cost are. Thank you.

Dean Dalvit December 12, 2016 at 6:40 am

Hrair, I’m not quite sure I follow your question. Are you seeking just cost information for a surface parking lot? Or are you seeking unit cost per square foot information for a 2 to 3 story wood framed apartment project with a surface parking lot? And where is the project located? That has a great deal to do with unit cost information. Let me know and we would be happy to help you out. Thanks!

HRAIR December 11, 2016 at 10:03 pm

cost of the parking surface fora 2-3 story wood frame for an apartment building.

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