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12 March 2020

PBSA in Ireland - an updated cost analysis

In our 2018 Linesight report on purpose-built student accommodation, we carried out an in-depth analysis into the sub-sector across a range of different areas, from macroeconomics to planning. Since then, PBSA has continued to evolve in Ireland, as the pipeline remains strong in response to significant demand. In this article, we provide an updated cost analysis for the six distinct headings under which PBSA direct construction costs can be broadly categorised. The cost range highlighted in brackets in each section is expressed over the total building area (basement as applicable, superstructure including circulation areas).



The cost of preliminaries is closely linked to the complexity, challenges and risks presented by particular projects. These can range from a low of 11% (of the construction costs) to a high (albeit less common) of 20%. As the industry has recovered, and as the volume of work has increased, contractors are looking in much more detail at the costs and risks associated with undertaking more complex and challenging projects. The effect of this has been a significant increase in the tender price included for project preliminaries, and even more so when looking at tight brownfield city centre sites. The impact of this increase is by no means insignificant, and can amount to anywhere between 11-16% for PBSA projects, dependent on the scale and complexity of the project and site selection (range €280 to €390+/sq.m.).


Site clearance

The cost of site clearance will vary greatly depending on site location – greenfield or urban renewal. There may be existing buildings to be demolished, or asbestos and ground contamination to be addressed etc. (range €45 to €65+/sq.m.).


Basement costs (where relevant)

Basement costs typically pertain to urban PBSA sites, where due to limited site area and building height restrictions, there is a requirement to maximise site utilisation with the construction of basement space for plantrooms and storage areas (e.g. bicycle storage) (range €300 to €500/sq.m.).


Basic building costs

Basic building costs excluding fixed and loose furniture vary enormously depending on the choices of façade treatment, core density, quality of finishes selected, choice of mechanical and electrical systems, and module size. 

Abnormal costs, such as transfer structures relating to ground floor retail or upper floor area set-backs, contribute to this cost range (range €2,180 to €2,475/sq.m.).


Furniture, fixtures and equipment

Loose and fitted furniture fixtures and equipment costs can vary significantly, depending on the extent of common area fit-out, including gymnasiums, cinema rooms, group study areas, etc. (range €130 to €175/sq.m.).


Site works and landscaping

The range of site works and landscaping costs vary significantly depending on the extent of the site area that forms part of the development, for example, landscaping, surface car parking, boundary treatment, surface water attenuation etc. (range €65 to €95/sq.m.).


Summary of costs

PBSA is often expressed on a cost-per-bed-space basis; however, the primary driver of cost in any building is its size (gross floor area). Expressing PBSA costs by bed space can be misleading, as the bed space area varies significantly from one scheme to another, depending on density, bedroom arrangement (cluster size, hall of residences, studios), bedroom size (single-study bed space is 12 to 13sq.m. typically, including en suite) circulation efficiencies, social/reception area, retail and basement.

The following table gives an indicative construction cost range for the development of PBSA, and is based on recently completed and live projects in the Dublin, Cork and Galway areas.

PBSA - Table 1 - Cost range for the development of PBSA
PBSA - Table 2 - Spread of costs for PBSA projects


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