European Construction Costs

Below, in alphabetical order, is a glossary of the terms and phrases used on the website and in the handbook of European Construction Costs. This is by way of an explanation of measure, units and technical terms.

If you require further clarification please contact us via the helpdesk.

Additional costs
Costs over and above the cost of the land and the construction costs. Includes consultants’ fees, connection fees, financing cost, general costs and profit for the builder. 

Balanced ventilation
Not air conditioning but extracted/introduced fresh air with filtration and air change. 

The high and low limits within which the costs are expected to fall. 

Basic / standard sanitaryware
We differentiate between the standards of sanitaryware with categories of basic / budget, being the cheapest, standard as being of intermediate quality and high quality being the best. 

Basic standard
Costs presented for each building as basic are the lower cost option for that typical construction. Cheaper materials,fittings and finishes. 

Building Cost Information Service. The commercial arm of the RICS ( The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) offering detailed information on cost, costing methods, publications and allied services. 

A points based system to measure energy efficiency and sustainability for buildings. Constantly evolving and being refined, is now a common eco measure for office and utility buildings. 

Building footprint (BF)
Area of the building on the ground, m². 

Building project
A term to describe the whole activity of a construction project. From planning, design, construction to completion. In commercial terms it includes, time, finance costs and taxes. 

Single storey residential building, may be semi detached, free standing or terraced. 

Capital allowances
Careful planning can ensure the maximum claim for rebates and allowances against the tax payable on building or construction project. These charges can be massive and professional advice should be sought for mitigation. 

Carbon footprinting
An ongoing project to measure the CO₂and other greenhouse gases attributable to the materials, construction and operation of a building over it's whole life cycle. Could include the eventual demolition.  

Carbon in use
Environmental measure of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases produced by a building's operation (excludes the embedded carbon which purely refers to the carbon content in the materials and construction of the building). In use measures heating / cooling / hot water / lighting / IT, anything that consumes energy. 

Cat A fit out
No set definition, but typically Category A is what the Landlord developing the property provides as part of the rentable office space and usually comprises the following: raised floors, floor coverings, extra services in ceilings, finishes too all internal walls, window blinds etc.


Cat B fit out
No set definition but would include over and above Cat A, cellular offices, enhanced finishes, reception area, fitted kitchenette, furniture for customer use. 

Cavity construction
The outer walls of a building are constructed with an outer (wet) skin with a cavity and then an inner (dry) skin. The cavity may be an air void or filled with an insulating medium. 

Connection charges
Usually presented as a set individual sum from utility providers for connections to their services; gas, water, electricity, etc. 

Construction costs
This is a cost representing purely the construction cost of a project to completion. Our UK figures are based on the average cost of construction being 100% so variations shown are given as plus or minus changes for the different regions. Similarly other countries costs are shown in the same way. 

Construction costs / GIFA
Construction cost per m² based on the gross internal floor area. 

Construction costs / VOL
Construction cost on the basis of a per cubic metre cost. 

An amount to be set aside to cover cost variations that cannot be reclaimed and were of an unforeseen nature. 

Contract completion date
The date set in the contract for completion of the project, it is from this date that liquidated and ascertained damages may apply. 

Cost estimate
Professional advice will enable you to plan your project by providing realistic cost estimates. The whole viability and financing of a project is dependent on getting the cost requirements right from the very beginning. 

Cost indices
By monitoring and recording costs of materials, labour and other costs ECC is able to present accurate figures and graphs illustrating the trends of cost changes. Available in several formats they present historical and future trends. 

Demolition of internals
Demolition of building to remove all but external and internal load bearing walls leaving the building frame and floors. This enables a full internal refit and refurbishment to be undertaken. Often the only possibility for a listed or preserved building. 

Demolition to frame
Part demolition of a building to remove all walls leaving the bare frame and floors for refurbishment. 

Demolition to slab
Demolition of building to floor slab, usually enabling existing foundations and floor slab to be reused. 

Demolition, total
Complete demolition of a building including foundations. 

Electric installation
The internal electrical installations of a building for power, lighting, emergency lighting, includes earthing / ducts etc. excludes equipment. 

Embedded carbon
A calculation to find the CO₂and other greenhouse gases content of a building included in the structure and from it's construction. For example a light weight concrete block uses less fuel in manufacture and delivery the use of which therefore can reduce the embedded carbon content of a building. Excludes the carbon produced in it's operation. 

EPC Energy performance certificates
Environmental grading for buildings provided by accredited assessors. This EU directive is compulsory and applies throughout the EU, will eventally be a common standard. 

Euro Affiliate
Member of the RLB Euro Alliance, a cooperation between the top national construction professionals in each country coordinated by Rider Levell Bucknall(RLB) to ensure a common standard of high level and delivery of service provision. 

External walls, windows and doors
Includes inner and outer skin, windows and external doors. Could be termed as all exterior vertical surfaces. 

External works
All works concerned with the exterior ground level works of a project. Ranging from ducts and drainage to landscaping, parking, paving and perimeter boundaries. 

Extruded terracotta blocks
More common in mainland Europe than the UK. Lightweight, extruded fired clay construction blocks. Very light, good insulation, inexpensive. 

Facing brick
A superior brick, usually higher strength and a 'dragged' special finish to the outer face. Requires skilled laying to optimise the benefits. 

Term used specifically for Hotels to provide a cost for Furniture, Fixtures and Fittings. More often than not quoted as a sum per guest room. 

Qualitative measure of materials and work undertaken. 

Support in the ground to take the weight of the building. Size and type dependent on soil condition and the load to be imposed upon it. 

May be made with concrete / steel but is the supporting framework upon which the building is constructed. Heavier frames are used in earthquake areas for example. 

Full air-handling
Air treatment to include full A/C and mixing of air to control its condition. 

Functional units
A cost on a per item basis i.e. cost per hospital bed, per school place, per parking space or even per workstation/desk. Already current for hotels on a per room basis. 

Gang nailed trusses
Popular in the UK, a factory made unit for timber roof trusses, simple lightweight timber with mechanical fixings. Strength is via a monoque system of the completed structure. 

General BWIC with services
Contractors costs for work in connecting services. Gas, electricity, water and drainage etc. 

General costs.
Costs that are not directly part of the construction cost but are nevertheless attributable to that project. 

Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA)
Measured between the inside face of the external walls. Certain area are included or excluded in different countries. 

Gross roof area (GRA)
The gross area of the roof in m², usually quoted less openings which are shown as a percentage of the total roof area. 

Gross wall area (GWA)
The total gross external wall area of the building including windows, doors and other apertures in m². 

Heating, air conditioning and ventilation
Heating and cooling generation plus ducts, controls and allied facilities and equipment. 

High standard
Cost indicating a higher specification construction, better fixtures, fittings, finishes and décor. Typically Hotel, HQ of company or public meeting area. 

In use costings
These are the costs made to comply with customer’s specific use requirements such as major plant, equipment and handling systems. May be included in the contract provisions. 

Internal finishes
Sub divided into floors, walls and ceilings. All internal surfaces need finishings ranging from painted block work to elaborate decorative panels, tiles and other materials. Huge cost variations which are a function of design and cost. 

Internal walls, partitions and doors
Include all internal walls, structural and non-structural. Stud walling, partitions (fabricated and systemised) including doors, fire doors and general space divisions. 

Investment costs
The total cost of the project from land purchase to operation, if required. This defines the sums allocated by an investor and enables a return on assets to be calculated for a business. 

Landscaped area
This is the measured external area to be landscaped, may be less than the plot size and would exclude car parking etc. 

Finalisation of external areas including gardens and recreational areas and boundary fences / walls, can include parking. 

Lettable floor area (LFA)
(Net)Lettable floor area. The m² or ft² of the floor area of the lettable unit. A shop unit could typically be 123m², (further definition in RICS measurement guide) may also be presented as a ratio or percentage of GIFA. 

Limited cooling
Less than full A/C and may be termed air handling. 

Lump sum extras
Additional costs expressed as a lump sum e.g. A/C £28.00 / m², EPC0.4 £45.00 / m² or total for car park £30,000. 

Main contractors overheads
Includes temporary accommodation, office,supervisory staff etc. and general company administration and overheads. 

Main contractors prelims
Includes site works, cranes and plant subsequently removed. Costs for job specific items not overheads. 

Main contractors profit
Sum estimated by the contractor as profit, net of expenses. 

Natural ventilation
Usually means opening the window. 

Office / floor area
A percentage / ratio of Lettable floor area (LFA) to Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA). Would include lift lobbies, stair wells in office block as non lettable areas. 

Open wall area (OWA)
All openings in the external walls of a building. Includes doors, windows, ducts and other openings. Used in the Dutch system to vary cost for standard buildings according to type. 

Procurement advice
An important function of construction cost and budget professionals to ensure optimum results by overseeing budgets, time scale and performance. 

Professional fees
Presented in our costs as Design/project fees. No longer on a set scale of charges in the UK and will vary with the complexity of the job. Take care with these costs as in other countries these charges can vary enormously and be applied in different ways following the local tradition. 

Project / design team fees
In the UK this includes, architect, project management, construction professionals, M&E services advisor, quantity surveyor and others. Huge variety of different practices in each country professional advice is recommended. 

Protective installations
Fire protection, hose reels, sprinklers, alarms and may include lightning protection. 

Based on the Dutch system many ratios are abstracted and calculated to enhance the monitoring of cost figures. Wall opening / total wall areas, wall area / gross floor area etc. These enable a detailed understanding of costs to be defined to a higher level of sophistication. 

Rebuilding costs
Typical value for insurance purposes. The definition of rebuilding is vague as the individual requirements need definition, for example total demolition and rebuild, or demolition to foundations (reused) and rebuild. Plus the fact that a rebuild is unlikely to be a like for like comparison. 

There is no standard definition but the implication is to remove the existing internal equipment and surfaces and to reinstate the interior with updated equipment and finishes. Obviously large cost ranges apply. 

Regional variances
Costs vary in different regions of each country, transport, regulations, construction and labour cost can all vary dramatically. The UK figures from our construction cost indices allow these factors to be introduced into our calculations. This applies to other countries but is dependent on accurate indices being available allowing for differing methods and traditions. 

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The United Kingdom's professional body overseeing Building Surveyors and Quantity Surveyors. Their commercial arm, BCIS provides technical support and recommendations. 

RICS Code of measure
RICS published code of measure defines units and methodology of measurement. We use these guidelines but other countries may use different measurement methods so it is recommended to check the system used for the presented figures. 

Risk analysis
Legal requirement to assess risks and identify likely hazards present on a project or construction site. EU wide standard but interperation varies country to country, penalties for non compliance can be draconian. 

Sanitary and waste installations
Usual presented in costings as cost of bathrooms and foul water removal provisions. Excludes incoming supply. 

Shell and core
The most basic completion level of a building (normally commercial). May even exclude fitted windows etc. Often the standard finish level for retail units. 

Site area (SA)
Site Area is the area of the building plot. Boundary to boundary, m². 

Split units
Air conditioning in two parts, an outer compressor and inner fan unit. Quieter and more efficient, especially with induction motored compressor units. 

Almost all residential units in the UK have wooden stairs, apart from multi layered accommodation units. In offices main stairs and escape stairs are included as one item. 

Standard construction
Costs presented for a standard construction. A balance between quality and cost veering towards a robust and durable standard with no frills but of a suitable standard for the intended use. 

Standard cost level
Costs used as the base reference point which are an average construction cost for the whole UK( and other country). Regional variations are therefore shown as a percentage change above or below that given figure. 

Strip foundations
Trench with compacted bottom filled with concrete (which may be reinforced) to provide a foundation. 

Studding (metal)
Systemised method of forming internal walls using formed metal sections and facing both side with plasterboard. Usually lightly plastered and painted. Cheap and fast construction method, poplar in the UK. 

Studding (timber)
Internal walls formed by constructing a timber frame and facing both side with plasterboard. Usually lightly plastered and painted. Cheapest method available in he UK. 

The foundations and associated works to support the building, would include piling and under pinning where applicable. Can be considered to include ground slab but this inclusion varies country to country. 

Literally the above ground constructive part of a building. May be considered frame plus other constructive elements, would not usually include roads, paving lighting. Not a specific description. 

Usually refers to outside areas and is differentiated into general areas, i.e. planted areas, pedestrian areas and hardened surfaces such as parking which may be a surfaced in blocks, tarmac or concrete. 

Suspended ceilings
System of metal channels suspended from the upper surfaces to support a false ceiling with budget or decorative panels. Will usually including lighting provision and to hide services such as ducting, A/C systems, cabling and other services. Large cost range according to requirement and quality.

Tiled roof
Tile of a cememtacious material, clay or slate are laid upon the exposed roof area to provide a water proof and durable covering of the area. These maybe fixed or laid on a securing system, battens etc. Usually a waterproof membrane is laid underneath to ensure water tightness. 

Underground infrastructure
A general term to cover all underground services ducts, cables and the various service connections especially in relation to provision of drainage, water, power and other utilities. Increasingly ducted rather than plain buried as with online services etc.  

Units of measure
The metric (SI) system is used throughout. Linear m¹, area m², volume m³, weight (mass) Kg. The imperial system is declining in use and is seldom used. 

Un-plasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride. A plastic used for cheaper windows, doors and exterior facings to buildings. The Unplasticised refers to a degree of resistance to ultra violet degradation. 

User provisions
Additional works to provide services, equipment, fixtures, furnishings or whatever is required to provide functioning space for the building user. 

Volume (VOL)
This is a measure of the cubic internal volume of a building between the inner faces of the external walls x the height floor to ceiling, (m³) This excludes inner structures, suspended ceilings etc.( Note; this is a measure that varies country to country) 

Water installations
Supply, waste connection, rainwater management and installations.