Tokyo tops league table of most expensive cities for construction

As the world’s eyes turn to Tokyo for the Olympic Games, the Japanese capital tops an unwanted podium – it is now the world’s most expensive market to build in.

Due to a significant pipeline of real estate and infrastructure projects, Tokyo has become the most expensive city in the world to build, with an average cost of $4,002 per sqm followed by Hong Kong ($3,894 per sqm) and San Francisco ($3,720 per sqm).

Our International construction market survey, published today, forecasts that rising prices being seen in the global construction sector will be sustained through 2022 and into 2023.

The widespread disruption to global supply chains witnessed through the pandemic is also being sustained by high demand and competition for key materials between global markets including the US, Europe and Asia. Globally, demand for steel, softwood and copper piping have seen prices rise sharply over the year, with increases of up to 40 percent seen in some international cities including Tokyo, Sydney, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Birmingham, Glasgow and Dublin.

Neil Bullen, Global Managing Director, Real Estate said:

Material shortages have undoubtedly recast the client and supplier dynamic and there is currently a shift in power from client to supplier in many markets around the world. Companies need to work closely with their supply chains to guard against these risks – moving from a ‘just in time’ to a ‘just in case’ approach to delivery.

"Beyond material and skills shortages, public and private sector clients across the world are juggling multiple, competing goals and priorities.

From accommodating hybrid working patterns, to embedding social value into their operations and taking concrete steps towards net zero, success is no longer judged by the old mantra of ‘better faster, cheaper’.

London ($3,203 per sqm), which ranked third in 2019’s report, has fallen to eighth place behind Geneva, Zurich, and Boston. The fall in ranking reflects the buoyancy of other construction markets and the combined effects of Brexit and COVID-19, which placed many projects on hold, restricting demand for new work in 2020.

The most buoyant construction sector across all 90 markets is data centres, driven by the unabated growth in technology and digitalisation. It is the first year that data centres have topped the ranking moving up from sixth position in 2019.

Access our full dataset and read our analysis of the global economic and construction landscape in our International construction market survey 2021.