Price Per Square Foot Construction Cost for Multi Story Office Buildings

by Dean Dalvit, AIA, PE on July 14, 2011

Time again to look at the current construction market activity and analyze construction costs per square foot for various types of office buildings. How much does it cost to build an office building? Below is some data from RSMeans construction cost data that we keep a close eye on in order to estimate construction costs for all of our office building projects. This data is sorted by region from the most expensive to the least expensive.

price per square foot construction cost for two to four story office building

For the most common office building size, two to four stories tall, the range is from just over $130 per square foot in Winston-Salem to over $230 per square foot in New York. The spread here is largely due to the local cost of labor and regulations that allow various construction types that are allowed in low rise construction. For example, in some cases where wood frame construction is still allowed, depending on location and occupancy, this would help to keep costs lower. In areas that are restricted to non-flammable construction, price per square foot will go up.

By taking advantage of savings provided by vertical construction, you will see approximately a 4% savings in cost per square foot by increasing the stories to between five and ten stories. While one might expect a larger savings for that economy of scale, several new requirements come with the mid-rise building that are often not dealt with on the low rise buildings. For example, elevator shafts and service corridors get more complicated as well as HVAC systems.

Price per square foot construction cost for five to ten story office building

The geographic spread in cost per square foot is identical to the low-rise data. This is still principally driven by local factors such as labor costs and local regulatory requirements.

Finally, the high rise buildings see the most economic cost per square foot. For buildings between eleven and twenty stories tall, there is approximately an 11% savings over the mid rise buildings and 15% over low rise. this is largely due to the fact that similar elevator, HVAC and service equipment requirements are required for mid and high rise, resulting in more economy of scale for going up.

price per square foot construction cost for eleven to twenty story office building

Again, the geographic spread is still the same, telling us that the cost per square foot is very sensitive to geographic location. Note that over twenty stories starts getting into more unique building characteristics that will drive costs in various ways. For more information on estimating the cost of your office building during the early planning stages, contact any of us here at EVstudio and we can help scope the right size project for your pro forma.


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Dean Dalvit April 24, 2019 at 10:36 am

Hi Again David – Permit costs, application fees, entitlements costs are also all outside of these hard cost numbers.

Dean Dalvit April 24, 2019 at 10:35 am

Hi David, thanks for your question. These costs are strictly hard costs for building construction and do not include soft costs, land costs, finance costs, FF&E, etc. Hope that helps!

David Adamson April 24, 2019 at 10:23 am

Do these cost include soft costs, design, approvals etc?

david adamson April 24, 2019 at 10:22 am

Are these costs including soft costs, design etc.

Dean Dalvit July 17, 2018 at 7:52 am

Thanks for your question. I don’t have any data specific to a vertical farming tower as that is an unusual building type for RSMeans and I don’t believe there’s much precedent for historical cost information. But assuming it would be like a core and shell concrete tower similar to other tower structures, and simply unfinished similar to a warehouse type use, then I’d say you would be looking at $120-$180/square foot. Depending of course on a great number of factors. I hope that helps.

Hanabi July 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm

We are looking to plan the construction of a vertical farming tower in LA with >10 floors of roughly 18,000 square feet each and would like to have an estimate of the cost to construct the building itself.

Dean Dalvit December 10, 2017 at 11:26 am

Thanks for your question – It sounds like you have a great project. I wasn’t clear if you were referring to a 7500 square-foot building footprint or a total enclosed area of 7500 ft.². In any case, a two-story building in your location with the level of finish that would be typical of professional office environment would run you, in today’s dollars, between $200 a square foot and $230 a square foot. These numbers would not include any special power generation or any other specialties that would be unique to the project. These numbers also do not include land costs, finance costs, soft costs or any FF&E (things like classroom desks, furnishings, equipment specific to the business, artwork on the walls – that sort of thing). You likely will need to consider some specialty acoustic treatments for this type of use. These numbers are based on the RSMeans cost data indexed and escalated for cost increases over the past six years. Bear in mind however that every project is unique and different, so while their numbers provide a great starting point for a preliminary budget, that budget would need to be refined after a proper programming session, conceptual design, schematic design, and every step along the way through the development of Construction Documents so the contractor can validate actual costs as you proceed through the design process. I hope that helps you take the next steps on your project. Please let us know if there is any thing we can assist you with.

Btevelde December 9, 2017 at 1:19 am

We are a conservatory of music, and want to build a 7500sq ft 2 story teaching facility with 24 8×10 teaching rooms, 2 100 person capacity performance suites, and waiting rooms, 6 executive offices, and reception area. We would like to do open parking under the building. We are in San Luis Obispo county in California. How would we get a rough idea of cost per square foot? We want a Pvt solar roof and Tesla commercial battery, so that power will be off the grid. That cost would be added to the total per square foot costs, but I don’t know if that will add any cost to the basic infrastructure of the building?. Do you have any ideas on where we would start with a realistic budget? Thank you so much for this blog. It is very helpful for people like me who really have no idea about construction costs. We want to do a crowd funding campaign, but I have no idea how much money we will need.

Dean Dalvit October 20, 2017 at 5:08 am

Thanks for your question, I’m happy to help. First though, I’d need to know where your project is located. Construction costs vary substantially across different regions, so that’s an important component in the cost estimate. I’d also need to know the level of finish you are looking for – is this a high end boutique building with luxury condos or is this an economy product for lease to budget minded renters? With a little additional information, I can give you a conceptual range to begin with for your construction budget. Thanks!

anil gupta October 19, 2017 at 1:00 pm

have a lot with 5000 sq feet floor plate with basment
four apartment on each floor 2nd to 4th ( 15000 sq feet) 2 bhk with two wash room n a gallery
1st is 4 commercial ( 5000 sq feet)
and one basment ( 5000)

what would be cost of construction with a wooden framed structure

Dean Dalvit August 25, 2017 at 8:03 am

There’s not nearly enough information in your request to be able to provide you any useful information. Please let me know the project location, square footage of building, actual number of stories, unit mix and level of finish. If you need assistance with determining these parameters for your project, we can help. Call us at 303-670-7242 or email Thanks.

KEJUAN LARON WILDER August 24, 2017 at 7:30 am

Surveyor just done the property. I am Just about to hired an architect the property is 33.33’witdth foot and lenght 82.46′
I would like to build four of five stories concrete with a few set backs
How much am I’m looking to borrow. Ball park

Dean Dalvit December 6, 2016 at 7:26 pm

I don’t quite follow your comment. Please try calling us and we can discuss over the phone. 303–670–7242. Please select whichever extension seems most appropriate for what you were looking for (Architecture or any of the Engineering disciplines that we offer). Thanks!

George Bright December 6, 2016 at 9:37 am

I need help in BUILDING new,2 or 3 story,square foots,HOW to start space

Dean Dalvit August 9, 2016 at 10:25 pm


Thank you for your questions. I have not received any updated data rom RSMeans on this particular product study, so yes, adjusting based on a index is highly recommended.
These costs are for the construction of the building alone. Additional costs include land costs, entitlement costs, soft costs, finance costs, site development costs and FF&E costs. I hope that helps!

Benjamin Hagen August 9, 2016 at 8:48 am

I have two question regarding building costs for offices:

1. Is there a more current Graph on building costs (2016) or is it necessary to in index these costs based on the “Turner index”.
2. Are there any additional building costs to add to your numbers?

Thank you in advance.

Dean Dalvit July 12, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Thank you for your question. A more useful link might be another article I wrote on apartment buildings that have more stories:
You will see from the data there that you should expect between $210 and $250 per square foot for what you’re describing, based on a number of factors. The construction cost per square foot steps up when you go beyond low-rise woodframe construction and have to use concrete in order to achieve higher stories. Please let us know if you seek any assistance with the design of your project – we have provided architecture and engineering services on three sizable condominium projects in Canada, and are currently looking at an age targeted independent living project. We would love to speak with you about your project. Thanks!

Tom Vee July 12, 2016 at 8:46 am

I have a question :
How much will cost to build seniors residence in Toronto.
An!18!storey building at approx
– is the cost floor higher floor higher per sq ft and how much?
Thank you in advance for your answer

Dean Dalvit April 18, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Thank you for your question. Going to six stories will require a different construction type, and therefore a step function in cost. The variables, of course, are what type of construction system, and where you are located. The premium for going from wood construction to concrete for example could be as much as $50 per square foot or more above and beyond the costs for wood frame construction. There are so many variables however to consider, and coupled with the fact that a concrete building offers many benefits, it’s important to weigh the options. EVstudio designs wood, steel, concrete and masonry buildings in low and mid-rise projects all over the country. Please tell us a little more about your project and we would love to assist you with the next steps. We can be reached at 303-670-7242. Thanks!

Mitesh Patel April 17, 2016 at 11:20 pm

We have built hotels in the past but have never built higher than 4 story to keep our construction cost lower with wood framing; however we have a piece of property we would like to develop and are thinking to go up 5 or 6 floors; how much extra cost do you think it is to go with a 6 story building versus a 4 story building?

Dean Dalvit April 14, 2016 at 10:03 am

Thanks for your inquiry. Unfortunately, RSMeans data doesn’t tell us anything about the occupant load in the buildings it derives its data from. In fact, it doesn’t even tell us the square footage of the buildings – only the price per square foot. So it’s anybody’s guess as to if these buildings are densely populated or not. It would be a great study, but no doubt a considerable undertaking to extract the kind of data you are looking for. If you do happen to come across that kind of information, we hope you swing back by the blog and post it for our readership. Thanks!

Joseph Vilella April 13, 2016 at 4:55 pm


Thanks so much for the support you bring to us out in cyber space! I’m an integrator that specializes in Gigabit Passive Optical Networks (high bandwidth fiber optics) deployment in commercial buildings. GPON is becoming a pretty critical things today to future proof our buildings. After over 8 years dealing with GPON I have been able to developed some fairly sophisticated models related to the basic building specs I deal with. I would like to further fine tune them by being able to go the other way around and predict size and cost of the building based on the number of people targeted to populate it. I have plenty of cost per square footage data, yet I would like to have some more clarity with respect to square footage per person as well as what additional percent of the total square footage used to accommodate the people, can be used to estimate the size of the general areas. A low, mid and high estimate of square footage per person would be awesome.
Thanks so much for any information you can provide in this respect and please take care!….Joe

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