Determining the school construction costs involves several steps and considerations that should be carefully analysed and researched.

We have provided key steps and areas of consideration, as well as some actual case studies that you can use as a guide.

Here’s a detailed guide to help you with school construction costs and estimates:

1. Define the Scope and Requirements

  • School Size and Capacity: Determine the number of students the school will accommodate and the needed facilities (classrooms, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, etc.).

This is a crucial step in your planning process to determine school construction costs.

We have a calculator to help you determine the approximate Ground Floor Area (GFA) that might apply.

Calculator How Much Area is Required to Set Up a School?

  • Educational Levels: Decide whether the school will be elementary, middle, high, or a combination.

These areas of the school are all calculated differently towards school construction costs.

For example, a secondary school offers many subject choices. In your scheduling process, you might only achieve an 80-85% utilisation of the full capacity because students move around the building to facilities required by their unique subject choices. Also, classroom sizes are vary depending on their function. A kindergarten classroom will be quite large because it has more play-based learning. A Science lab is large because it requires unique and practical facilities. Language labs or traditional learning spaces can be smaller.

  • Special Features: Include any special features like theatres, gyms, art studios, or specialized labs.

Unique spaces have different design and fit-out costs depending on their function.

2. Select a Location

  • Land Costs: Research the cost of land in the desired location.

This will vary depending on the location and the zoning. Not all land can be used for universal purposes, as it is zoned for different uses, including residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, etc. In some locations, the land can cost as much as or even more than the constructed facility.

  • Site Preparation: Factor in clearing, grading, and site preparation costs.

Site preparation is the process of preparing the site for future construction work. This involves clearing the construction site, grading the land, and compacting the soil. It is a critical step in the construction process, laying the groundwork for a successful and safe construction project. Consider site clearing, surveying, soil testing, and site plan design, including pipes and plumbing systems that could also be inhibited by rock formations or already existing systems that connect to the nearby community, such as sewage. (More detail)

We have a calculator that will help you determine the approximate area of land needed for a new school.

Calculator How Much Land Area is Required to Set Up a School?

3. Consult with Architects and Builders

  • Design Fees: Include costs for architectural design and engineering services.

Architectural and engineering fees typically range from 5% to 15% of the total construction cost, depending on the project’s complexity and scope. Basic architectural services might be around 6% to 10%. Engineering Services range from 1% to 5% for structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services.

  • Construction Bids: Obtain multiple bids from construction companies for a competitive price.

Obtaining multiple construction bids is critical in ensuring you get the best value for your school’s construction project.

  • Material Costs: Consider the cost of building materials, which can vary widely based on quality and availability.

Understanding the costs of building materials is crucial when planning the construction of a new school. Material costs can vary widely based on factors such as quality, availability, location, and market conditions.

Several factors will influence material costs, including:

(I) Quality

  • Higher-quality materials often have higher costs but can offer better durability, aesthetics, and performance. They may last longer and require less maintenance.
  • Balancing quality with budget constraints is essential for cost-effective construction.

(ii) Availability

  • Local availability can significantly impact costs. Materials that need to be shipped from afar will incur additional transportation costs.
  • Supply chain issues or market fluctuations can cause price volatility.

(iii) Market Conditions

  • Prices of raw materials like steel and lumber can fluctuate based on global supply and demand.
  • Economic conditions, trade policies, and tariffs can also affect material costs.

(iv) Project Location

  • Regional cost variations due to labor rates, local regulations, and climate conditions.
  • Urban vs. rural location differences in terms of material availability and delivery logistics.

School Construction Costs

4. Break Down School Construction Cost Components

  • Building Shell: Costs for the basic structure, including foundations, walls, roofs, and exterior finishes.
  • Interior Finishes: Include costs for flooring, ceilings, paint, and other interior finishes.
  • Mechanical Systems: HVAC, plumbing, electrical systems, and fire safety systems.
  • Specialised Facilities: Costs for labs, kitchens, auditoriums, and other specialized areas.

5. Consider Regulatory and Compliance Costs

  • Permits and Inspections: Include costs for obtaining necessary building permits and ongoing inspections.
  • Accessibility and Safety Standards: Ensure the building meets all local, state, and federal regulations for accessibility and safety.

6. Include Contingencies and Overruns

  • Contingency Budget: Allocate a percentage of the total budget (typically 10-20%) for unexpected costs or overruns.
  • Project Management Fees: Include costs for hiring a project manager to oversee the construction process.

7. Research and Utilise Cost Estimation Tools

  • Online Cost Calculators: Use online construction cost calculators specific to facilities of a similar type.
  • Industry Reports: Look for industry reports and benchmarks that provide average construction costs for schools in your region.

8. Review Case Studies and Benchmarks

  • Similar Projects: Review case studies and benchmarks of recently built schools to get a realistic idea of costs.
  • Consult Experts: Engage with consultants specialising in educational facility construction for detailed insights.

At GSE, we provide a comprehensive service, including a professional and detailed financial modelling process. We determine the school construction costs, as well as the costs to set up and launch the school, including a 10-year financial projection. Private equity groups and large and small school investors engage GSE for these important aspects of the initial planning process.

School Construction Costs

Some School Construction Cost Case Studies (USD) :

USA, Virginia

Student NumberBuilding CostSite CostTotal CostSq FtSq MCost per student
1130$53,484,665$ 5,054,056$ 58,538,721118,88711,045$ 51,713
*excluding consulting fees, fittings, equipment etc

Dubai, UAE

Student NumberBuilding CostSite CostTotal CostSq FtSq MCost per student
*excluding consulting fees, fittings, equipment etc

Other countries: The above examples show that land costs can be a very large variable, and labour and construction costs vary from location to location. Country building and construction cost indexes can be used as a helpful guide in the early planning phase, but it is important to conduct a comprehensive research project to estimate costs accurately.

“GSE sets up and operates schools on behalf of investors, education groups or individuals.”

Our team has extensive experience in this field. Many of our team members began as Head of School, moved on to corporate roles in international business, and have extensive experience living and working in many far-flung reaches of the globe.

If you want to learn more about the steps required to set up a school, check out some of our other articles:

Steps to Setting Up a New School

10 Steps and Articles on How to Set Up a New School

GSE International School Franchise Models

GSE provides specialist services to set up all forms of education institutions, including international schools, kindergartens, vocational colleges, universities and online/virtual schools.

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CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry

Greg Parry

Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for education institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Minister’s Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.

Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals worldwide in critical thinking, language development, and leadership. His expertise in school start-up projects, leadership, and curriculum development has made him a sought-after authority in this discipline.

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Global Services in Education establishes and operates schools worldwide. Guided by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion for inspiring and collaborating to shape international education and student achievement.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.