Construction Cost Per Square Foot for Multi-family Housing Based on Construction Type

In 2018, I 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
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.
Aria Apartments

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.

Architecture Multifamily Centric LoHi

EVstudio has expertise in the design of a wide array of Multi-family 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, so let us know how we can help. We understand that a project only succeeds when the numbers work.


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39 thoughts on “Construction Cost Per Square Foot for Multi-family Housing Based on Construction Type”

  1. Hi Robert,
    Thanks for reaching out. 1 acre ought to be plenty of land for a 30 unit podium project. I don’t know where your project is located, and that would inform overall cost per square foot, but while you’re correct in that phasing is an effective risk mitigation strategy, the overall cost of two buildings will be a fair bit higher than one single building. There are inherent inefficiencies in multiple podium buildings from systems to construction mobilization to amount of building skin as a function of footprint area. As a result, many lenders will typically question that approach. If your concerned about absorption rates, a market study should be able to shed light on that actual risk fairly effectively. Those are often also required by lenders.

    If your project is in one of the many states we are licensed to do business in, we’d be happy to take a look at your site and help you with a concept that would work for your budget and your risk profile. I’ll reach out directly by email and we can go from there. Thanks!

  2. Hello, I’m looking at a 1 acre level lot that is zoned for minimum 30 units with a parking requirement of 2.5/unit. To mitigate risk, my initial plans are to build the first of two 15 unit buildings, each podium style (not subterranean) parking structure and 3 stories containing 5 dwelling units per floor. Would you agree with that strategy (phased construction to mitigate risk vs. all 30 units at once)? And more importantly what is the added cost (psf) for a podium style parking vs. detached grade level surface parking?

  3. Hi John,
    Thanks for reaching out. We’ll contact you separately and we can discuss how we can help you with your project. Thanks!

  4. I surely would like to be contacted….. we are starting a new project in Huntsville ALABAMA. This is our first one so please call so we can discuss. Thanks

  5. Jeffrey, The data is based on gross square footage of the building. Take note however, that means it includes finished below podium space. A discounting effect occurs if that space is unfinished core and shell or used as parking. The degree of the discounting effect for that portion of the building would depend entirely on specific project circumstances. Hope that helps!

  6. Joe, all of the projects referenced in this post are already built. Are you referring to another project by chance?

  7. Steven,
    Do you have a builder for this project? I work for a GC in the Midwest we would love to talk with you,

  8. Steve, thanks for your question. Not an easy one to answer without a greater level of background knowledge on the site, location and overall program. However, you’ve done a good job outlining the fundamentals. I would suggest that the existing infrastructure you would be starting with might represent upwards of $30 a square foot. Now, depending on your location (midwest could be downtown Chicago or rural Iowa), let’s say new construction would be $200 a square foot. Then to move forward with what you have, you would be looking at the remaining $170 a square foot to complete the building with all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, new walls, roof, interior finishes and exterior work. I don’t know if this helps, but hopefully gives you a strategy for getting your arms wrapped around it. Depending on your location, we have Architecture and Engineering expertise with renovation multi family projects all over the United States. Would be happy to speak with you in further detail about this project if it moves forward. Just contact us at Thanks and best of luck with your project!

  9. Good day Dean,

    Can you give some cost guidance regarding a potential redevelopment project in the mid-west? A 60’s constructed, large multi-family building that has been abandoned and stripped to the concrete (anything left behind would have to be removed anyway). Since a significant percentage of the costs are just to build the shell of larger structures, and this property is on the edges between a revitalized area and still depressed area there may be an opportunity to bring it back online and reduce the local urban blight. Below are the limited details I have;

    – 257 units (don’t know the unit mix)
    – 13 floors (including ground)
    – No underground parking or basement
    – 1st floor holds all mechanical and service spaces (also ~ 60 indoor parking spaces)
    – Large outdoor parking area for ~250 cars
    – Concrete foundation and floor plates (~ 15K sq ft per plate)
    – Early 60’s construction
    – If some piece of piping or wiring has not been stripped, it will have to be taken out
    – Assume concrete between units but stick construction inside the units
    – Assume building is still has structurally sound foundation, plates and exterior
    – Assume that everything has to be done; Roof, Elevators, Drains, Vents, Heating, Main Power, Sewage line, Windows, etc, etc

    Can they give me anything to work with; $ per sq ft, $ per unit, $ per ??.?

  10. Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for your question – it is a good one, and important in order to get your pro forma right. In general, soft costs can be all over the map. There is no “industry standard” and in fact, since the AIA stopped publishing recommended % rates back in the 70’s under threat of collusion claims by the federal government (in spite of the fact that other professions, like real estate agents to this day seem to command a fairly well known %), soft costs have been a difficult thing to estimate for developers without input from their design team. For a typical new construction project, you could expect to see, as a % of construction cost, the Architecture and Engineering for the building itself (Engineering would include Structural, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) would run anywhere from 5% to 10% of the estimated construction cost. Then Site soft costs would be another bucket, and Civil engineering, surveying, geotechnical are all entirely dependent on the site itself and would be too difficult to define as a % number of any kind. You can imagine a clean flat site vs a steeply sloped site into a floodplain would be two very different site design scopes. Now, here is where it gets more interesting: A multifamily project tends to have a great deal of repeat-ability. This means that the design scope of work could be less than a project that does not have such repeat-ability. For example, a 200 unit three-story walk-up project may have 20 units in a building and 10 identical buildings. So, the way we would scope that would be to design the first building as a prototype, then discount the other identical buildings by way of using a repeat factor. Depending on the project, this could result in a significant discount on the standard 5%-10% figure. Keep in mind though that it’s rare that site and market conditions would allow for every building to be identical, but that’s an example. On the other hand, if your 300 units are all custom condominiums and every unit is unique, your soft costs would go up. The best way to get a soft cost number for your pro forma is simply to get proposals from design firms based on your site and program. It’s what we all do in order to develop business, so it shouldn’t be an unknown in your pro forma. I hope that helps.

  11. WE are building a 300 unit MF (4 story) project in Martin County Florida (just above West Palm Beach). My question is the costs psf for soft costs. I can use a percentage but not sure as this is my first in Florida. I personally am a NY builder and trying to better understand the Florida market to create a construction budget

  12. Mark,
    Thanks for your question. Silver rock Manor is a residence. Are you looking to build an 8 story home or a mid rise condominium 8 floors high with the luxury detailing and aesthetic appeal of of Silver Rock Manor? Let us know a little more about your project and I’m certain we can help.

  13. I am interested as I want to build a building like one of yours. I need approximate costs on the building like> Silver Rock Manor in Evergreen Colorado / 8 floors high. Can someone call me if can build in Chicago. Mark. I have sample video.

  14. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for your question. There is another post I’ve written about regional costs for multifamily construction. It can be found here:
    As you can see, NYC tops the list, and escalating for indexed growth in construction costs, you’d be looking at an average of $270/sq.ft. in today’s dollars. There is a premium for noncombustible construction, but some savings for no elevator (though I don’t know how you’d meet accessibility requirements at 4 stories without an elevator). In any case, I’d say your range might be $260-$300/sq.ft.. This of course depends on other factors such as level of finish and what site work you may have to do as well. We design a great deal of award winning multifamily across the country, so if you’d like our assistance with the next steps, please let us know and we can discuss the project further and go from there. Our email is and phone is 303-670-7242. Thanks!

  15. Good Morning,

    Considering a project in NYC about 4000 sq ft buildable 5 apts, 4 story walk up. Non combustible construction, sprinklers, no elevator. What price per square foot can we expect for soft and hard costs?

  16. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for reaching out. We’ve actually completed a number of projects very similar to what you are describing over in Saskatoon. I will reach out to you separately by email to follow up. In general, this type of product runs $180-$200 USD /NSF or $140-$160 USD / GSF, but there are of course many variables to consider.

  17. Hello,
    We are interested in building a 3-4 story wood-frame walk-up, 24 – 50 apartment units, with mid-range finish with amenities. I will like to have underground parking. A mix of 1 and 2 bedroom will be great. Any building beyond 4 story will require steel frame and elevator shaft according to the building code. The lot size is about 150′ x 150′. The location is Edmonton, Alberta Canada. I’ve followed the thread of your discussions and find them very helpful. I’m open to any ideas you may have about floor plans and ready-to-use plans. Thank you.

  18. Twinkle,
    We would love to help you with your project and we have a group at EVstudio that are specialists in condominium design. I couldn’t tell you anything about your $25k land without more information, and if it would require a re-zoning or not to get the multifamily use you are looking for. I also can’t speak to your construction cost expectations without knowing where the project is located, how large a building and the level of finish. But, we are experts in condominium design all over the US and internationally, so we’d love to discuss your project with you and see how we can help you take the next steps forward. We are well known for stunning award winning design that fits within a budget – something difficult to find among design firms. Contact us at 303-670-7242 or Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!

  19. I have an idea in my mind and a project that I would like to see if it is feasible. Essentially, I am seeking a land that is on sale for 25K SF and I would like to build a condo building on it.
    Please contact me.

  20. Sounds great Josephine, we can help! Call us at 303-670-7242 or email and we can connect you with one of our Architect experts steeped in micro-unit housing and affordable housing. One thing to note however with your program, the International Building Code requires a minimum room size of 70 sq.ft. and a minimum horizontal dimension of 7′. So your room dimensions are too small to meet code. We look forward to hearing from you!

  21. I want to build a micro tiny homeless motel (40)6’x8′ rooms motel style, stick frame, 3-4 levels completed without furniture how much per sq ft

  22. 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 and we’d be happy to take a look. Thanks!

  23. 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,

  24. 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!

  25. 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?

  26. 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.

  27. 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?

  28. 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!

  29. 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

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

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