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Notre Dame Cathedral Repairs

I’ve read a few news articles that proclaimed charitable donations to Notre Dame may not be enough to cover the cost to rebuild the damaged cathedral roof. One article on Bloomberg news stated, “The cost might well run as high as 8 billion euros”.

I think it’s time some news sources engage with a professional architect, engineer and cost estimator before writing these articles. 8 billion Euros is enough to spend an astronomical amount to repair the damage!

One World Trade Center is the most expensive building built in the U.S. It cost $4 billion. It measures 3.5 million square feet (SqFt).

Some sources are saying the Notre Dame cathedral roof repair may cost more than $8 billion. The Notre Dame roof, as closely as I can determine from online data of the building, measures about 50,000 SqFt.

Just think about that.

I’m stretching my thought process to come up with a rough estimate that would cost as high as $250 million. Frankly, my rough estimate is quite a bit lower than that, and that would still be far more costly per SqFt than the most expensive building in the U.S.

I haven’t yet seen an architect / engineer estimate of the total area of the roof. I traded some emails with an architect who thought total area was 25,000 SqFt. I searched online and come up with potential area of roof at 50,000 SqFt. Here I’m using 50,000 SqFt.

I have not seen any other realistic cost estimates. But, the most expensive roof covering and roof structure I’ve ever estimated was less than $100/SqFt (in 2019 dollars).

My order of magnitude estimate (OME) (very general), for a unique, complex structure and premium roof covering could be $500/SqFt. Portions of this roof need to be quite ornate and also the estimate must include a ceiling structure. For a historical and rare roof plus inside work let’s double that estimate to $1000/SqFt. That’s 10x the cost of the most expensive roof I’ve ever estimated / built.

$1 billion would provide for $20,000/SqFt.

$8 billion would provide for $160,000/SqFt!

Even if my OME is 10x too low and I make a 10x adjustment, cost would then be $10,000/SqFt for a total cost = $500 million. That’s 100x more expensive than the most costly roof I’ve ever estimated. Frankly, I can’t come up with any conceivable scenario where it could cost that much.

 

footnote: 8 billion Euros is currently about $9 billion US dollars

 

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Construction Overtime – A Common Miscalculation

4-7-18

Construction Overtime – A Common Miscalculation

You never get full production out of all overtime hours worked. A common miscalculation when applying overtime overlooks productivity losses.

Let’s say we have a project that has 100 manweeks of productive work (100mw x 40hrs = 4000 manhours) remaining on the schedule to completion, but that we absolutely must finish the job is less time. Also, let’s say we modify the work week from 5 days 8 hours = 40 hours/wk to Overtime (OT) 6 days 10 hours = 60 hours/wk. A simple calculation indicates that if we add 50% more hours per week (60hrs vs 40hrs), we could finish the job in 1/3 less time.

  • Original plan = 4000 manhours / 40 hrs/week/man = 100 manweeks
  • Revised plan = 4000 manhours / 60 hrs/week/man = 67 OT manweeks
  • Time saved = (100–67)/100 =33/100= 33% time saved, 33 mwks saved
  • Cost added would be +20%. See example of cost calculation below.

But, unfortunately, that would not be correct. That would have to assume no OT productivity losses. You won’t get 60 productive hours out of a man in a 6-10s 60-hour OT workweek. You will get only 50 productive hours.

Productivity loss graphic from Applied Cost Engineering, Clark and Lorenzoni, Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1985.

Overtime productivity

Yes, you still pay for all hours and the man is still on the job for 60 hours, but work progress slows as workers are kept on the job for longer periods. So how much time would be saved on the schedule?

Revised plan productivity 4000 manhours work / 50 productive hrs per week per man = 80 OT manweeks to completion.

Time saved = (100 – 80) / 100  = 20/100 = 20% time reduction or 20 mwks saved, not 33.

What did we get from this application of overtime compared to the original?

  • 20 mnwks LESS of normal 40hrs =20×40= 800hrs less at normal 1x rate
  • 80 mnwks at 20hrs/wk at OT, 1.5x rate =80×20= 1600hrs more at 1.5x rate
  • Net cost 1600 x 1.5 – 800 x 1 = 1600 equivalent extra cost hrs over base 4000.
  • Time saved (100-80)/100 = 20%
  • Cost increased 1600/4000 = 40%

This simple example shows the full hourly time savings is not realized due to lost productivity plus many of the hours worked are at a higher cost. Though the initial basic OT estimate forecast 33% time saved at 20% extra cost, that scenario actually saved only 20% time and added 40% cost, double the initial budget.

If this was initially a 30 month project, with approximately 35% of the cost in labor, then overtime saved 6 months time, but added 15% inflation to the total cost.

There’s a significant difference in the original un-adjusted OT estimate of time/cost versus the OT time/cost analysis for nonproductive hours. That would be a serious mistake in estimating and could have serious cost implications against the budget.

This will vary with the OT scenario selected or any other data set used, but generally the more days and longer hours worked, the higher the extra cost ratio. Of course, a better way to accomplish a tightened schedule might be to add a second shift rather than work men longer hours. However, in times of restricted labor supply that might not be feasible.

See this blog post for OT productivity loss rates Overtime Isn’t Always What It Seems – Lost Productivity Construction

 

 

Inflation in Construction 2019 – What Should You Carry?

updated 2-11-19

8-10-19 added comments on 2019 inflation rates

8-26-19 go to this article for  Added links to sources for international construction inflation rates

For What You Should Carry 2019, continue.

When construction is very actively growing, total construction costs typically increase more rapidly than the net cost of labor and materials. In active markets overhead and profit margins increase in response to increased demand. These costs are captured only in Selling Price, or final cost indices.

General construction cost indices and Input price indices that don’t track whole building final cost do not capture the full cost of inflation on construction projects.

To properly adjust the cost of construction over time you must use actual final cost indices, otherwise known as selling price indices.

ENRBCI and RSMeans input indices are examples of commonly used indices that DO NOT represent whole building costs, yet are widely used to adjust project costs. An estimator can get into trouble adjusting project costs if not using appropriate indices. This plot of cost indices for nonresidential buildings shows how input indices did not drop during the 2008-2010 recession while all other final cost indices dropped.

BCI 2005-2020 Firms 2-24-19

CPI, the Consumer Price Index, tracks changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services, including food, transportation, medical care, apparel, recreation, housing. The CPI is not related at all to construction and should not be used to adjust construction pricing. Historically, Construction Inflation is about double the CPI, but for the last 5 years construction inflation averages 3x the CPI.

Producer Price Index (PPI) Material Inputs (which exclude labor) to new construction increased +4% in 2018 after a downward trend from +5% in 2011 led to decreased cost of -3% in 2015, the only negative cost for inputs in the past 20 years. Input costs to nonresidential structures in 2017+2018 average +4.2%, the highest in seven years. Infrastructure cost are up near 5% and single-family residential inputs are up 4%. But material inputs accounts for only a portion of the final cost of constructed buildings.

Labor input is currently experiencing cost increases. When there is a shortage of labor, contractors may pay a premium to keep their workers. Unemployment in construction is the lowest on record. The JOLTS ( Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) is at or near all-time highs. A tight labor market will keep labor costs climbing at the fastest rate in years.

Click Here for Link to a 20-year Table of 25 Indices

Inflation can have a dramatic impact on the accuracy of a construction budget. Usually budgets are prepared from known current costs. If a budget is being developed for a project whose midpoint of construction costs is two years in the future, you must carry an appropriate inflation factor to represent the expected cost of the building at that time.

The level of construction activity has a direct influence on labor and material demand and margins and therefore on construction inflation. Nonresidential Buildings and Non-building Infrastructure backlog are both at all-time highs. 75% to 80% of all nonresidential spending within the year comes from starting backlog. In 2019 spending from nonresidential backlog although up only 4% reaches an all-time high. In the last three years nonresidential buildings spending from backlog is up more than 30%.

Most spending for residential comes from new starts. Residential new starts in Q1-2018 reached a 12 year high. Spending from new starts in 2019 will dip slightly but is up over 100% in the last 6 years, 25% in the last 3 years.

Current indications are that 2019 backlog will be up 8%-10% across all sectors. However, while a few markets will outperform in 2019 (amusement/recreation, transportation), predicted cash flow (spending) from backlog dips or remains flat in every sector. Materials price inputs are increasing again after having slowed or reversed (lumber and steel) in late 2018. Year-to-date inputs cost increased for 6 moths, up 1.7%, or an annual rate of +3.4%. 

Although many contractors report shortages due to labor demand this may decrease due to a forecast construction volume decline. But, we might see a labor decline lag spending/volume decline.

Expect 2019 escalation in almost all cases to come in at or lower than 2018.

Residential construction inflation saw a slowdown to only +3.5% in 2015. However, the average inflation for five years from 2013 to 2017 is 6%. It peaked at 8% in 2013. It climbed back over 5% for 2016 and reached 5.8% in 2017. For 2018, residential final cost inflation indexes are up only 4.3%. Anticipate residential construction inflation for 2019 between 3.5% and 4%.

Note 8-2-19: Residential inflation for the 1st half of 2019 has come in at only 3.5%.

A word about Hi-Rise Residential. About 95% of the cost of a hi-rise residential building would remain the same whether the building was for residential or nonresidential use. On the contrary, this type of construction is totally dis-similar to low-rise residential, which in large part is stick-built single family homes. Therefore, a more appropriate index to use for hi-rise residential construction is the nonresidential buildings index.

Nonresidential Buildings indices have averaged near 5% per year for the  last 2 years and over 4% per year for the last 5 years. Nonresidential buildings inflation totaled 18% in the last four years. Nonresidential buildings spending in 2019 will reach the fastest rate of growth in three years, which historically has led to accelerated inflation.

Steel tariffs in 2018 are incorporated into 2018 inflation. In another article on this blog, (see steel cost increase), I calculated the 25% tariff on steel would cost nonresidential buildings 1%. Some Infrastructure could be much more, i.e., bridges 4-5%. Residential impact would be small. A 25% increase in mill steel could add 0.65% to final cost of building just for the structure. It adds 1.0% for all steel in a building. If your building is not a steel structure, steel still potentially adds 0.35%. 

Anticipate 2019 construction inflation for nonresidential buildings, excluding any new tariff impact, at 5%, rather than the long-term growth average of 3.5% to 4%. Adjust for new tariffs impact.

Note 8-2-19: Nonresidential Buildings inflation for the 1st half of 2019 as tracked by most national selling price indices has come in at just over 5%.

Reliable nonresidential buildings selling price indexes have been over 4% since 2015. Some have averaged over 5% for the last four years. Construction Analytics forecast (line) for 2019 is currently 5.1%. This may move higher due to the impact of September 2019 tariffs which are not yet reflected in any indices.

Inflation Range 2000-2020 plot 8-10-19

Non-building infrastructure indices are so unique to the type of work that individual specific infrastructure indices must be used to adjust cost of work. The FHWA highway index increased 17% from 2010 to 2014, stayed flat from 2015-2017, then increased 6%+ in 2018. The IHS Pipeline and LNG indices increased in 2018 but are still down 20% since 2014. Coal, gas, and wind power generation indices have gone up only 6% in seven years. Refineries and petrochemical facilities have dropped 5% in 4 years but 2018 regained the level of 2013.

Input costs to infrastructure are down slightly from the post recession highs, but most have increased in the last year. Input cost to Highways are up 4.6% in 2017 and 2018 and and for 2019 are on track to increase 4%. Inputs to the Power sector are up 4.8% in 2017, 3.4% in 2018 and are forecast up 4% in 2019. Work in Transportation and Pipeline projects has increased dramatically in 2017 and 2018.

Infrastructure power indices registered 2.5% to 3% gains in both 2017 and 2018. Highway indices increased 6.6% in 2018. Anticipate 4% to 5% inflation for 2019 with the potential to go higher in rapidly expanding markets, such as pipeline or highway.  Refer to Infrastructure Indices.

Watch for unexpected impacts from tariffs. Steel tariff could potentially add 5% to bridges. Also impacted, power industry, pipeline, towers, transportation. 

  • Long term construction cost inflation is normally about double consumer price inflation (CPI).
  • Since 1993 but taking out 2 worst years of recession (-8% to -10% total for 2009-2010), the 20-year average inflation is 4.2%.
  • Average long term (30 years) construction cost inflation is 3.5% even with any/all recession years included.
  • In times of rapid construction spending growth, construction inflation averages about 8%.
  • Nonresidential buildings inflation has average 3.7% since the recession bottom in 2011. It has averaged 4.2% for the last 4 years.
  • Residential buildings inflation reached a post recession high of 8.0% in 2013 but dropped to 3.4% in 2015. It has averaged 5.8% for the last 5 years.
  • Although inflation is affected by labor and material costs, a large part of the change in inflation is due to change in contractors/suppliers margins.
  • When construction volume increases rapidly, margins increase rapidly.
  • Construction inflation can be very different from one major sector to the other and can vary from one market to another. It can even vary considerably from one material to another.

BCI 2001-2020 8-10-19

 

The two links below point to comprehensive coverage of the topic inflation and are recommended reading.

Click Here for Link to a 20-year Table of 25 Indices

Click Here for  Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

 

 

 

US Historical Construction Cost Indices 1800s to 1957

Historical Cost Indices Dating Back to 1800s

See pages 379-386 for indices

See page 387 for start of Housing

Chapter on Housing Historical Data

U S Census Historical Construction Spending Annual totals 1964-2002  USE Table 1

 

 

Construction Inflation Index Tables

  • 10-24-16 Originally posted
  • 2-10-19 updated index tables and plots to include Q4 2018 data
  • 8-10-19 updated index tables and plots to include Q2 2019 data

This collection of Indices is published in conjunction with this linked commentary

Click Here for  Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

Construction Cost Indices come in many types: Final cost by specific building type; Final cost composite of buildings but still all within one major building sector; Final cost but across several major building sectors (ex., residential and nonresidential buildings); Input prices to subcontractors; Producer prices and Select market basket indices.

Residential, Nonresidential Buildings and Non-building Infrastructure Indices developed by Construction Analytics, (in highlighted BOLD CAPS in the tables below), are sector specific selling price composite indices. These three indices represent whole building final cost and are plotted in Building Cost Index  – Construction Inflation, see below, and also plotted in the attached Midyear report link. They represent average or weighted average of what is considered the most representative cost indicators in each major building sector. For Non-building Infrastructure, however, in most instances it is better to use a specific index to the type of work.

The following plots of Construction Analytics Building Cost Index are all the same data. Different time spans are presented for ease of use.

BCI 1967-2018 7-10-18

BCI 1992-2019 2-12-18

8-10-19 note: this 2005-2020 plot has been revised to include 2018-2020 update.

BCI 2005-2020 8-10-19

Click Here for  Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

All actual index values have been recorded from the source and then converted to current year 2017 = 100. That puts all the indices on the same baseline and measures everything to a recent point in time, Midyear 2017.

All forward forecast values wherever not available are estimated and added by me.

Not all indices cover all years. For instance the PPI nonresidential buildings indices only go back to years 2004-2007, the years in which they were created. In most cases data is updated to include June 2019.

  • June 2017 data had significant changes in both PPI data and I H S data.
  • December 2017 data had dramatic changes in FHWA HiWay data.

SEE BELOW FOR TABLES

When construction is very actively growing, total construction costs typically increase more rapidly than the net cost of labor and materials. In active markets overhead and profit margins increase in response to increased demand. When construction activity is declining, construction cost increases slow or may even turn to negative, due to reductions in overhead and profit margins, even though labor and material costs may still be increasing.

Selling Price, by definition whole building actual final cost, tracks the final cost of construction, which includes, in addition to costs of labor and materials and sales/use taxes, general contractor and sub-contractor overhead and profit. Selling price indices should be used to adjust project costs over time.

Here’s a LINK to a good article by Faithful & Gould that explains “If you want to avoid misusing a cost index, understand what it measures.” 

quoted from that article,

wiggins-cost-iindex

R S Means Index and ENR Building Cost Index (BCI) are examples of input indices. They do not measure the output price of the final cost of buildings. They measure the input prices paid by subcontractors for a fixed market basket of labor and materials used in constructing the building. ENR does not differentiate residential from nonresidential, however the index includes a quantity of steel so leans much more towards nonresidential buildings. RS Means is specifically nonresidential buildings only. These indices do not represent final cost so won’t be as accurate as selling price indices. RS Means subscription service provides historical cost indices for about 200 US and 10 Canadian cities. RSMeans 1960-2018 CANADA Keep in mind, neither of these indices include markup for competitive conditions. FYI, the RS Means Building Construction Cost Manual is an excellent resource to compare cost of construction between any two of hundreds of cities using location indices.

Notice in this plot how index growth is much less for ENR and RSMeans than for all other selling price final cost indices.

8-10-19 note: this 2010-2020 plot has been revised to include 2018-2020 update.

BCI 2010-2020 Firms 8-10-19

Turner Actual Cost Index nonresidential buildings only, final cost of building

Rider Levett Bucknall Actual Cost Index  published in the Quarterly Cost Reports found in RLB Publications  for nonresidential buildings only, represents final cost of building, selling price. Report includes cost index for 12 US cities and cost $/SF for various building types in those cities. Boston, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington,DC. Also includes cost index for Calgary and Toronto.

Mortenson Cost Index is the estimated cost of a representative nonresidential building priced in seven major cities and average. Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, Phoenix, Denver, Portland and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index only specific PPI building indices reflect final cost of building. PPI cost of materials is price at producer level. The PPIs that constitute Table 9 measure changes in net selling prices for materials and supplies typically sold to the construction sector. Specific Building PPI Indices are Final Demand or Selling Price indices.

PPI Materials and Supply Inputs to Construction Industries

PPI Nonresidential Building Construction Sector — Contractors

PPI Nonresidential Building Types

See this article by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Nonresidential building construction overhead and profit markups applied to select Nonres building types

PPI Materials Inputs and Final Cost Graphic Plots and Tables in this blog updated 2-10-19

PPI BONS Other Nonresidential Structures includes water and sewer lines and structures; oil and gas pipelines; power and communication lines and structures; highway, street, and bridge construction; and airport runway, dam, dock, tunnel, and flood control construction.

RS MEANS Key material cost updates quaterly

National Highway Construction Cost Index (NHCCI) final cost index, specific to highway and road work only.

The Bureau of Reclamation Construction Cost Trends comprehensive indexes for about 30 different types of infrastructure work including dams, pipelines, transmission lines, tunnels, roads and bridges. 1984 to present.

IHS Power Plant Cost Indices specific infrastructure only, final cost indices

  • IHS UCCI tracks construction of onshore, offshore, pipeline and LNG projects
  • IHS DCCI tracks construction of refining and petrochemical construction projects
  • IHS PCCI tracks construction of coal, gas, wind and nuclear power generation plants

S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index history final cost as-sold index but includes sale of both new and existing homes, so is an indicator of price movement but should not be used solely to adjust cost of new residential construction

US Census Constant Quality (Laspeyres) Price Index SF Houses Under Construction final cost index, this index adjusts to hold the build component quality and size of a new home constant from year to year to give a more accurate comparison of real residential construction cost inflation

Beck Biannual Cost Report develops indices for five major U.S. cities and Mexico, plus average. I did not see specifically if the index is or is not a composite of residential and nonresidential buildings. It can be used as an indicator of the direction of cost,  but may be better used in conjunction with other more specific sector selling price indices. Beck has not published index values since 2015. Read the report for the trend discussion. Atlanta, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Tampa and Mexico

Other Indices not included here:

CoreLogic Home Price Index HPI for single-family detached or attached homes monthly 1976-2019. This is a new home and existing home sales price index.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) issued by U.S. Gov. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services, including food, transportation, medical care, apparel, recreation, housing. This index in not related at all to construction and should not be used to adjust construction pricing.

Jones Lang LaSalle Construction Outlook Report National Construction Cost Index is the Engineering News Record Building Cost Index (ENRBCI), a previously discussed inputs index. The report provides some useful commentary.

Sierra West Construction Cost Index is identified as a selling price index but may be specific to California. This index may be a composite of several sectors. No online source of the index could be found, but it is published in Engineering News Record magazine in the quarterly cost report update.

Leland Saylor Cost Index  Clear definition of this index could not be found, however detailed input appears to represent buildings and does reference subcontractor pricing. But it could not be determined if this is a selling price index. A review of website info indicates almost all the work is performed in California, so this index may be regional to that area.  Updated Index Page

DGS California Construction Cost Index CCCI  The California Department of General Services CCCI is developed directly from ENR BCI.  The index is the average of the ENR BCI for Los Angeles and San Francisco, so serves neither region accurately. Based on a narrow market basket of goods and limited labor used in construction of nonresidential buildings, and based in part on national average pricing, it is an incomplete inputs index, not a final cost index.

Vermeulens Construction Cost Index can be found here. It is described as a bid price index, which is a selling price index, for Institutional/Commercial/Industrial projects. That would be a nonresidential buildings sector index. No data table is available, but a plot of the VCCI is available on the website. Some interpolation would be required to capture precise annual values from the plot. The site provides good information.

Colorado DOT Construction Cost Index 2002-2019 Trade bids for various components of work published by Colorado Dept of Transportation including earthwork, paving and structural concrete.

Washington State DOT Construction Cost Index CCI for individual components or materials of highway/bridge projects 1990-2016

Minnesota DOT Highway Construction Cost Index for individual components of highway/bridge projects 1987-2016

Iowa DOT Highway Cost Index for individual components of highway/bridge projects 1986-2019

New Hampshire DOT Highway Cost Index 2009-2019 materials price graphs and comparison to Federal Highway Index.

New York Building Congress New York City Construction Costs compared to other US and International cities

U S Army Civil Works Construction Cost Index CWCCIS individual indices for 20 public works type projects from 1980 to 2050. Also includes State indices from 2004-2019

Eurostat Statistics – Construction Cost Indices 2005-2017 for European Countries

Comparative International Cities Costs – This is a comparative cost index comparing the cost to build in 40 world-wide cities  If this International Cities Costs is a parity index, which involves correcting for difference in currency, then you must know the parity city in each country, which in the US I think is Chicago.

OECD International Purchasing Power Parity Index

Turner And Townsend International Construction Markets 2016-2017

Turner And Townsend International Construction Markets 2018

US Historical Construction Cost Indices 1800s to 1957

Click Here for Link to Construction Cost Inflation – Commentary

2-12-18 – Index update includes revisions to historic Infrastructure data

8-10-19 Note: updated index tables to include Q2 2019 data

Index Table 1991 to 2000 updated 8-10-19

Index Table 2001 to 2010 updated 8-10-19

Index Table 2011 to 2020 updated 8-10-19

How to use an index: Indexes are used to adjust costs over time for the affects of inflation. To move cost from some point in time to some other point in time, divided Index for year you want to move to by Index for year you want to move cost from. Example : What is cost in mid 2019 for a nonresidential building whose midpoint of construction was 2013? Divide Index for 2019 by index for 2013 = 109.6/86.0 =  1.27. Cost of building in 2013 times 1.27 = cost of same building in 2019. Costs should be moved from/to midpoint of construction. Indices posted here are at middle of year and can be interpolated to get any other point in time.

All forward forecast values where-ever not available are estimated by Construction Analytics, generally 0.5% to 1.0% lower each for 2019 and 2020.

Click Here for LINK to Cost Inflation Commentary – text on Current Inflation

Construction Cost Inflation – Commentary 2019

8-10-19 updated plots and commentary

General construction cost indices and Input price indices that don’t track whole building final cost do not capture the full cost of escalation in construction projects. To properly adjust the cost of construction over time you must use actual final cost or selling price indices.

Click Here for Link to a 20year Table of 25 Indices

Inflation in construction acts differently than consumer inflation. When there is more work available, inflation increases. When work is scarce, inflation declines. A very large part of the inflation is margins, wholesale, retail and contractor. When nonresidential construction was booming from 2004 through 2008, nonresidential final price inflation averaged almost 8%/year. This was at a time when input costs were averaging between 5% and 6%/year. When residential construction boomed from 2003 to 2005, inflation in that sector was 10%/year. But from 2009 through 2012 we experienced deflation, the worst year being 2009. Residential construction experienced a total of 17% deflation from 2007 through 2011. From 2008 to 2010, nonresidential buildings experienced 10% deflation in two years.

2-10-19 plots updated to Dec 2018 data.  The following plots are all the same data. Different time spans are presented for ease of use.

BCI 1967-2018 7-10-18

BCI 1992-2019 2-12-18

8-10-19 note: this 2005-2020 plot has been revised to include 2018-2020 update.

BCI 2005-2020 8-10-19

Nonresidential Buildings – Since 1993, the 25-year long-term annual construction inflation has averaged 3.5%, even when including the recessionary period 2007-2011.  Long-term average inflation, without recessionary declines, is 4% for 20 non-recessionary years since 1993. During rapid growth period of 5 years from 2004-2008, inflation averaged 8% per year. Since 2011, nonresidential buildings inflation has averaged 3.8%, averaging 4.25%/yr. for the last 4 years with a high of 5.1% in 2018.

Residential, from 2007- 2011 experienced 5 consecutive years of deflation, down 20%. In the 4-year boom just prior to that, 2003-2006, inflation averaged 9% per year. Residential inflation snapped back to 8.0% in 2013. It slowed to 4.4% in 2018 but has averaged over 5% for the last three years.

Construction Spending growth posted two separate 4-year periods of 40%+ growth, up 41% in 2012-2015 and up 40% in 2013-2016, exceeded the growth during the closest similar four-year periods 2003-2006 (37%) and 1996-1999 (36%), which were the two fastest growth periods on record with the highest rates of inflation and productivity loss. Growth peaked at +11%/year in 2014 and 2015, exceeded only slightly by 2004-2005.

Spending growth slowed to 7.0% in 2016 and only 4.5% in 2017. It’s expected, after final revisions that 2018 spending will finish at 6+%.  

Producer Price Index (PPI) Material Inputs (excluding labor) costs to new construction increased +4% in 2018 after a downward trend from +5% in 2011 led to decreased cost of -3% in 2015, the only negative cost for inputs in the past 20 years. Input costs to nonresidential structures in 2017+2018 average +4.2%, the highest in seven years. Infrastructure cost are up near 5% and single-family residential inputs are up 4%. But material inputs accounts for only a portion of the final cost of constructed buildings.

Labor input is currently experiencing cost increases. When there is a shortage of labor, contractors may pay a premium to keep their workers. All of that premium may not be picked up in wage reports. Potential labor shortages in an area might result in +8% to +10% inflation on labor cost just over the last two years. Unemployment in construction is the lowest on record. A tight labor market will keep labor costs climbing at the fastest rate in years.

Nationally tracked indices for residential, nonresidential buildings and non-building infrastructure vary to a large degree. When the need arises, it becomes necessary that contractors reference appropriate sector indices to adjust for whole building costs.

Click Here for Link to a Table of 25 Index Values

ENRBCI and RSMeans input indices are prefect examples of commonly used indices that DO NOT represent whole building costs, yet are widely used to adjust project costs. An estimator can get into trouble adjusting project costs if not using appropriate indices. This plot of cost indices for nonresidential buildings shows how input indices did not drop during the 2008-2010 recession while all other final cost indices dropped.

BCI 2005-2020 Firms 2-24-19

CPI, the Consumer Price Index, tracks changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services, including food, transportation, medical care, apparel, recreation, housing. This index in not related at all to construction and should never be used to adjust construction pricing. Historically, Construction Inflation is about double the CPI. However for the last 5 years it averages 3x the CPI.

Taking into account the current (Jan 2018 12 mo) CPI of 2% and the most recent 5 years ratio, along with accelerated cost increases in labor and material inputs and the high level of activity in markets, I would consider the following forecasts for 2018 inflation as minimums with potential to see higher rates than forecast.

 

Residential construction, from 2007- 2011, experienced five consecutive years of deflation, down 20%. In the 4-year boom just prior to that, 2003-2006, inflation averaged +9% per year. Residential construction inflation saw a slowdown to only +3.5% in 2015. However, the average inflation for five years from 2013 to 2017 is 6%. It peaked at 8% in 2013. It climbed back over 5% for 2016 and reached 5.8% in 2017. For 2018, residential final cost inflation indexes are up only 4.5%. Anticipate residential construction inflation for 2019 between 4.5% and 5%.

Note 8-2-19: Residential inflation for the 1st half of 2019 has only come in at 3.5%. A range of 3.5% to 4% for 2019 is now appropriate.

A word about Hi-Rise Residential. About 95% of the cost of a hi-rise residential building would remain the same whether the building was for residential or nonresidential use. This type of construction is totally dis-similar to low-rise residential, which in large part is stick-built single family homes. Therefore, a more appropriate index to use for hi-rise residential construction is the nonresidential buildings cost index.

 

Nonresidential Buildings inflation, during the rapid growth period of five years from 2004-2008, averaged 8% per year. Inflation averaged near 4% per year for the 4 years 2014-2017.

Several Nonresidential Buildings Final Cost Indices averaged over 5% per year for the  last 2 years and over 4% per year for the last 5 years. Nonresidential buildings inflation totaled 22% in the last five years. Input indices that do not track whole building cost would indicate inflation for those four years at only 12%, much less than real final cost. For a $100 million project escalated over those four years, that’s a difference of $8 million, potentially underestimating cost. Nonresidential buildings spending in slowed from 2017 to 2019 but is now entering a phase in which it will reach the fastest rate of growth in three years, which historically leads to accelerated inflation. Anticipate construction inflation for nonresidential buildings for 2018 and 2019 at 5%, rather than the long term average of 3.5% to 4.0%.

Note 8-2-19: Nonresidential Buildings inflation for the 1st half of 2019 as tracked by most national selling price indices has come in at just over 5%. Use at least 5% for the remainder of 2019.

Non-building infrastructure indices are so unique to the type of work that individual specific infrastructure indices must be used to adjust cost of work. The FHWA highway index increased 17% from 2010 to 2014, stayed flat from 2015-2017, then increased 6%+ in 2018. The Highway index for Q12019 is up greater than 7%. The IHS Pipeline and LNG indices increased in 2018 but are still down 20% since 2014. Coal, gas, and wind power generation indices have gone up only 6% in seven years. Refineries and petrochemical facilities have dropped 5% in 4 years but 2018 regained the level of 2013. Input costs to infrastructure are down slightly from the post recession highs, but most have increased in the last year. Input cost to Highways are up 5.0% and to the Power sector are up 3.6% in 2018. Work in Transportation and Pipeline projects has increased dramatically in 2017 and 2018.

Infrastructure power indices registered 2.5% to 3.5% gains in 2017 and again in 2018. Highway indices increased 6.6% in 2018. Anticipate 4% inflation for Power sector and at least 5%-6% inflation for Highway in 2019 with the potential to go higher in rapidly expanding markets, such as pipeline or highway.

This plot for nonresidential buildings only shows bars representing the predicted range of inflation from various sources with the line showing the composite final cost inflation. Note that although 2015 and 2016 have a low end of predicted inflation of less than 1%, the actual inflation is following a pattern of growth above 4%. The low end of the predicted range is almost always established by input costs, while the upper end of the range and the actual cost are established by selling price indices.

8-10-19 note: this 2005-2020 plot has been revised to include 2018-2020 update.

Inflation Range 2000-2020 plot 8-10-19

A word about terminology: Inflation vs Escalation. These two words, Inflation and Escalation, both refer to the change in cost over time. However escalation is the term most often used in a construction cost estimate to represent anticipated future change, while more often the record of past cost changes is referred to as inflation. Keep it simple in discussions. No need to argue over the terminology, although this graphic might represent how most owners and estimators reference these two terms.

Inflation Escalation with text

In every estimate it is always important to carry the proper value for cost inflation. Whether adjusting the cost of a recently built project to predict what it might cost to build a similar project in the near future or adding an escalation factor to the summary of an estimate for a project with a midpoint 2 years out, or answering a client question, “What will it cost if I delay my project start by one year?”, whether you carry the proper value for escalation can make or break your estimate.

  • Long term construction cost inflation is normally about double consumer price inflation (CPI).
  • Since 1993 but taking out 2 worst years of recession (-8% to -10% total for 2009-2010), the 20-year average inflation is 4.2%.
  • Average long term (30 years) construction cost inflation is 3.5% even with any/all recession years included.
  • In times of rapid construction spending growth, construction inflation averages about 8%.
  • Nonresidential buildings inflation has average 3.7% since the recession bottom in 2011. It averaged 4.6% for the 4 years 2016-2019.
  • Residential buildings inflation reached a post recession high of 8.0% in 2013 but dropped to 3.5% in 2015. It averaged 4.6% for the 4 years 2016-2019, but is at the low point of 3.3% in 2019.
  • Although inflation is affected by labor and material costs, a large part of the change in inflation is due to change in contractors/suppliers margins.
  • When construction volume increases rapidly, margins increase rapidly.
  • Construction inflation can be very different from one major sector to the other and can vary from one market to another. It can even vary considerably from one material to another.

Click Here for Link to a Table of 25 Index Values

Construction Inflation Cost Index

Note: The post you’ve reached here was originally written in Jan 2016. For the latest information follow this link to the newest data on Inflation. 8-15-19

ESCALATION / INFLATION INDICES

Thank You. edz

Jan. 31, 2016

Construction inflation for buildings in 2016-2017 is quite likely to advance stronger and more rapidly than some estimators and owners have planned.

Long term construction cost inflation is normally about double consumer price inflation. Construction inflation in rapid growth years is much higher than average long-term inflation. Since 1993, long-term annual construction inflation for buildings has been 3.5%/yr., even when including the recessionary period 2007-2011. During rapid growth periods, inflation averages more than 8%/yr. 

For the period 2013-2014-2015, nonresidential buildings cost indices averaged just over 4%/yr. and residential buildings cost indices average just over 6%/yr. I recommend those rates as a minimum for 2016-2017. Some locations may reach 6% to 8% inflation for nonresidential buildings but new work in other areas will remain soft holding down the overall average inflation. Budgeting should use a rate that considers how active work is in your area.

Infrastructure projects cost indices on average have declined 4% in the last three years. However, infrastructure indices are so unique that individual specific indices should be used to adjust cost of work. The FWHA highway index dropped 4% in 2013-2014 but increased 4% in 2015. The IHS power plant cost index gained 12% from 2011-2014 but then plummeted in 2015 to an eight year low. The PPI industrial structures index and the PPI other nonresidential structures index both have been relatively flat or declining for the last three years.

These infrastructure sector indices provide a good example for why a composite all-construction cost index should not be used to adjust costs of buildings. Both residential and infrastructure project indices often do not follow the same pattern as cost of nonresidential buildings.

Anticipate construction inflation of buildings during the next two years closer to the high end rapid growth rate rather than the long term average.

Building Cost Inflation Index

 

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