Manchester generic from the air, c PNW

Manchester is the third most expensive city to build in, according to Arcadis. Credit: PNW

Manchester makes global list of most expensive cities to build in

London took the top position on Arcadis’ 2024 International Construction Costs Report, while the North West city claimed the 12th spot.

Manchester’s ranking saw the city go up three ranks from the year before, where it had been the 15th most-expensive city to build in.

Within the UK, Manchester was the third most costly city for construction, coming behind Bristol. Manchester was deemed to have higher building costs than Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Glasgow, or Belfast – the only other UK cities to have been evaluated by Arcadis.

Belfast was the cheapest of the UK cities, earning the 28th most expensive in the world spot.

Arcadis noted that the UK’s costly nature was only partly due to inflation – which the consultancy said was actually at moderate levels.

What has pushed up build cost, however, is “specification enhancements related to building safety, sustainability, and client expectations,” the group said.

The future is not necessarily rosy either.

“Tight fiscal conditions will see increasing pressure on the public purse in 2024 and beyond, with real-term cuts in government capital investment currently projected from 2025 until 2029,” Arcadis continued in a press release.

“Whilst optimism as measured by the construction PMI has improved, the legacy of a weak order book from 2023 will delay recovery until late 2024 before the positive sentiment is realised.”

Richard Jones, Arcadis’ Northern cities director, went into more detail and shed some light into how the situation might improve.

“Whilst we are seeing inflationary pressures reducing, construction costs remain relatively expensive,” he said.

“[With] uncertainty created by the cancellation of HS2 north of Birmingham and the local and national elections, greater focus will be needed on managing costs and maximising value with a place-led approach to regeneration supported by public and private sector collaboration,” Jones continued.

“Our ground-breaking research demonstrates that certainty and commitment to major infrastructure across the North will build investor confidence, resulting in a tangible increase in the scale and pace of regeneration across Northern cities and towns. Importantly, these benefits could be unlocked years before the infrastructure becomes operational.”

To craft its rankings of the most expensive cities to build in, Arcadis looked at 100 cities across the world. In each city, it examined 20 different building types, their construction costs and market conditions. The firm also used its in-house expertise to make professional judgement calls as to where each city should be ranked.

The resulting 10 most expensive cities to build in were…

  1. London
  2. Geneva
  3. Zurich
  4. Munich City
  5. New York
  6. San Francisco
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Copenhagen
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Bristol

Meanwhile, the 10 cheapest cities to build in were…

  1. Buenos Aires
  2. Lagos
  3. Kaula Lumpur
  4. Nairobi
  5. Bengaluru
  6. Johannesburg
  7. Delhi
  8. Mumbai
  9. Chengdu
  10. Ho Chi Minh

Read the full report.

Your Comments

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Outrageous. Brexit won’t have helped us. Would like the loonies who think developers are having it away to have a read of this. Development margins are lower than ever and do not compensate investors for the risk.

By John W

Maybe this explains why all the new buildings in Manchester tend to be boring soulless boxes and the overall city itself is irredeemably unattractive?

By Anonymous

Manchester does not look good to be completely honest it may have more density than places like Liverpool but they are for more attractive.
And am from Manchester .

By Anonymous

A few good articles about Liverpool and the comments threads have all turned toxic.

By Anonymous

And we’re getting to the point where Manchester will run out of city centre surface carparks to develop soon, surely adding to this

By Anonymous

Manchester has no identity now, it’s just one tall, unattractive block of flats after another. I guess this might explain why

By Anonymous

People are not interested in chocolate box cities. You don’t make money in cities destined for calendars, otherwise York and Salisbury would have 9 million people living in them ,and London and Manchester 130.000. Where there’s muck there’s brass and all that.

By Elephant

Why do most of the comments seem to be written by one person on here these days

By Bob

Everyone wants to build and invest because it’s so ugly?

By Such little men

That “ground-breaking research” sounds like blabber. Nothing useful.

By Anonymous

The relevant question is not ‘is Manchester more attractive than Liverpool?’ but ‘is Manchester more attractive than it was?’ I grew up in Manchester in the 80s and it was largely shockingly ugly. The development since then has been a mixed bad, with some very good indeed and some awful and a lot in between. But the city has improved hugely, and the eyesores are in the main not the buildings which have been put up this century but those put up in the 60s and 70s.

By John C

Bit of lingering Brexit derangement syndrome still evident. Mad eco rules much more likely to have added to costs

By Eco Realist

Yet people prefer to visit Manchester… and love it!


So it costs more to build somewhere with a very strong market (which shows no sign of slowing down), where there is competition for sites and labour and a market which demands – and can pay for – higher spec stuff than elsewhere. Doesn’t sound like a problem.

By Anonymous

High density = ugly and low standard of living


John W, Brexit saw a massive boost to construction on the UK, especially Manchester, it’s been a huge positive


The most successful cities do have the most building costs, just look at the lists. Does generate the usual jealous response from that bloke though . Never mind…it’s good to be successful !


Where is Liverpool in all this , why are we not included..there is some development now isn’t there ? its not all depressing and ugly .

By Anonymous

I never knew how jealous people were of Manchester until I started reading the comments on this website

By Anonymous

Struggling to understand how Dublin is not on this list.


Sorry DH, I guess success isn’t for everyone as the list shows. Fear not everyone gets a little splash of gravy eventually…just not as much.

By Dan

Quite some emotive arguments here, certainly Manchester has seen a turn of fortunes in the last 20 but whether it’s due to some distinctive quality unique to Manchester or because of larger economic restructuring across the country is an argument. One thing is for sure, the city today (all U.K cities) despite its genuine efforts lags behind not only London but other similar sizes cities across Europe. @Elephant, sorry but your wrong there pal, drawing a binary between York and Manchester isn’t people have in mind anyone who travels to places like Amsterdam, Zurich or even Copenhagen will tell you we’re not on the right track.

By Anonymous

If Manchester has started to look more like Toronto or an East Asian city , it’s because it’s growing and economically vibrant, and that brings the chance to lead a better life. I happen to think that the more growth we get the higher the quality of building we will create.

By Rich X

Glass boxes, brown and orange bland boxes care of SimpsonHaugh. I’m for development but we desparately need more creative architects. We need to beautify the city id we want to compete with Milan, Barcelona etc.

By Tom

Anonymous at 4.45pm. If Manchester lags behind peer European cities(A dubious claim by the London press in my view) then explain Henley and Partners, placing it 9th for the most millionaires in Europe? Bettered by only London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, a few Swiss cities, and Rome. That doesn’t sound like a city not competing on the European stage to me. It is above Dublin, Berlin , Lisbon, Barcelona and Milan(Italy’s economic epicentre) and a host of other capitals. What is worrying is that no other English city is anywhere on this list. Edinburgh is near the middle of the table as the other U.K. entry. Manchester is easily competing with these cities. Where it isn’t competing ,is on proper infrastructure investment and that is wholly the fault of Westminster and not the fault of Manchester.

By Elephant

Brexit has only increased material and labour costs (or exacerbated wider inflationary trends) and made it harder for us to trade. This has naturally had an impact on construction as it has virtually every other sector. It’s incredible that there are still a few people around trying to argue that it’s somehow been of some benefit to us.

By Brexit Bin

By Brexit Bin
Probably less than 1% due to Brexit, planning laws, tax, shortages of trades people due to Covid – as people retired or return home-
It’s interesting than inflation pressures are the same across Europe and North America, yet no Brexit involved there-
Sorry to burst the blame Brexit for everything – move on my friend

By Stuart wood

@Stuart As I said, there’s no question Brexit has exacerbated things. How can it not? If you strip away all the rhetoric it essentially boils down to putting up barriers to trade. This is the CHOICE those promoting it made. Moreover most independent analysis point to it reducing the size of our economy by 4-5% over the medium term. There’s no way this isn’t going to impact supply chains and input costs, construction included. You can point to other factors but Brexit is a big one and it’s about to get worse as we are about to implement more import controls. It’s all a long way from those fabled benefits we were all promised.

By Brexit bin

Brexit has increased labour costs according to Brexit Bin, or wages have increased and Mancunians are better off for it


@Elephant 7.18 – having a few millionaires doesn’t make a city prosperous. Look at Mumbai or Delhi. Multiple studies show that the UK’s largest cities outside of London do not compete with their European counterparts. Manchester city centre may have a few big boxes going up but it is incredibly ugly and awfully designed (look for any accessible and attractive park in the city centre). It has an AWFUL long way to go if it even wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Barcelona or Frankfurt etc.

By Anonymous

@DH not when real wages are so low – eroded away by (Brexit-worsened) inflation. In summary Brexit has hindered the construction industry as it has practically every other industry.

By Brexit bin

Manchester can’t be that bad – has more visitors and inhabitants than Liverpool.

I prefer to visit Manchester anyway.

By Anonymous

Sorry anonymous 11.09 but your bias is showing just a tad. It’s ok to jealous but it’s also important to remain objective and logical. Manchester’s continued success is to be applauded and yes I know it already is with lists like this illustrating its success. However, deep breaths, tall buildings do not a city make and there are many layers to any city. Your comments show you have explored few of them. You have been getting some success recently too. Celebrate that instead of trying to denigrate others…don’t be that guy in the comments .

By Anonymous

Manchester needs a few parks in the centre and a few more museums. Booze and football isn’t enough to attract visitors.

By John

Manchester is an unstoppable machine. Truly amazing how much the city has changed and the sheer volume of people it now contains on a daily basis. Nowhere outside London like it in the U.K.

By Mdmanc

I wasn’t comparing it with Mumbai Anonymous . I was comparing it with Milan. It has twice as many millionaires as Italy’s economic engine. Italy is the 7th richest country in the world. It doesn’t have a few millionaires. It has 25.000. If those people only had a million pounds each, that’s 25 billion pounds and of course those people have far more than that. It also has 6 billionaires and 6 Tech Unicorns. It is an economic powerhouse now and all this, it isn’t competing on a world stage is just sour grapes, from its failing regional rivals. The British government needs to wake up and get an Underground built and stop Penny pinching with a city that is booming. Manchester with proper investment could be our Frankfurt easily.

By Elephant

where or were?. Suggest proof reading before publishing. Standards slipping further & further & further.

By Anonymous

    Thanks for catching that very regrettable typo. You are quite right that I needed to take time and proofread that story better. My apologies. – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

If Manchester, Liverpool and Salford get it right, it could not only be the richest région in the UK but the richest région in Europe. Westminster has long privileged London for too long to the détriment of the regions. No other country in Europe has as many decaying cities as the UK. Happily things are slowly changing and it’s about time.

By John

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