This study evaluates initial construction costs of a four-story building in the Portland area. It compares construction cost estimates of six different structural systems all with brick veneer as the exterior cladding. Click here to view the full study.
Based on the construction cost estimates prepared for this study, the cost associated with using a noncombustible compartmentalized construction method including concrete-based construction materials was very favorable with both conventional wood frame and light gage steel frame construction costs. The load-bearing masonry system was only 3 percent more than the cost of conventional wood frame and 3 percent less than steel frame construction.
The minimal increase in construction cost can help pay for itself over the life of the structure. Materials such as concrete masonry have many other advantages beyond their inherent fire resistance including durability, resistance to mold growth, resistance to damage from vandalism, structural integrity, and minimal damage caused by water and water pressure in the event of building fire. In many cases, with concrete-based construction that will never burn, the damage outside of the fire compartment is minimal. This provides for reduced cleanup costs and quicker reoccupation of the structure.
This study determined that truly resilient buildings can be constructed affordably. We can keep the residents in our communities safe by using the principles of balanced design. We recommend that a similar study be undertaken to evaluate the use of similar construction systems and their associated construction cost impact on other typical building types such as schools, retail establishments, and commercial buildings.