Whether you’re searching for a career in construction or already in a leadership role, it is interesting to know which U.S. cities have the highest construction costs. This information is particularly relevant for commercial construction estimators. Anyone can benefit from the knowledge, though.

Take a look at recent data regarding which cities are the most expensive to build in. Then, let’s see how that compares to data from the past few years.

Cities With the Highest Construction Costs a Few Years Ago 

In May 2019, San Francisco and New York were the most expensive cities for construction in the United States. They were also the most expensive cities in the world for construction. This information came from the 2019 International Construction Cost Comparison. Boston also made the world’s top 10 most expensive cities, and it was the only other city in North America. That previous ranking is based on data from Arcadis.

A report from Turner & Townsend the same year revealed that the 2019 International Construction Market Survey found similar results. Although they did not reach the top 10, the most expensive cities in North America to build also included Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Vancouver (Canada), Atlanta, Toronto (Canada), Houston, Edmonton (Canada), Ottawa (Canada), and Mexico City (Mexico).

The Factors

The high costs in New York were likely due to insurance costs, strict building codes, and logistic challenges. In San Francisco, the labor shortages caused by the tech sector played a role, as do compliance with energy codes and building codes.

Cities Currently With the Highest Construction Costs

A recent analysis from construction management firm Cummings found that construction costs are rising due to the skilled labor shortage and higher cost of materials. Lumber and steel are among the materials with the highest price increase. The report also indicated that overall construction costs rose during the pandemic.

New York and San Francisco Remain the Most Expensive

Unsurprisingly, New York and San Francisco remain the two most expensive cities in the United States to build in. The cities ranking after them (in order) are Honolulu, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and Sacramento.  Washington D.C. was used as the baseline for comparing construction costs.

Least Expensive Cities for Construction

This recent report also listed which cities in the United States have the lowest prices from construction estimators and completed projects. Starting with the lowest, these include Raleigh-Durham, Orlando, Miami, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, and Atlanta.

The Most Expensive and Least Expensive Construction Projects 

Lastly, the recent report from Cummings also listed some of the most expensive construction projects in the country, based on square foot. A medical facility for acute care in New York City was the most expensive at $1,468 per square feet. It was closely followed by a similar facility in Honolulu that cost $1,455 per square foot. Next was a museum and performing arts center in NYC at $1,304 per square foot followed by a specialty clinic in Honolulu at $1,213.


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