source for estimating (commercial) construction costs?

Anyone know a good site for getting a reasonable estimate on the cost of a new building, for example, a cafetaria/dining hall for # of people or a lodgebuilding with # rooms?
Working on a capital improvements plan here and would like some very rough numbers for a funds-raising session, prior to getting contractors involved.

I know you only want rough numbers but I think they will be a LOT rougher than you expect with the detail here. I am not in construction but see this sort of question in my business all the time and it stinks as it is impossible to answer with any degree of reliability. When someone asks me, “How much will it cost to upgrade my computer network?” I cannot tell them with out a whole lot more talking. It is akin to asking a construction person how much it will cost to build a house. How big of a house? With what features? On what kind of land? With what kind of building codes? With what kind of access to utilities? Are you building in New York City or West Bumblefuck? etc.

There are simply SO many fiddly little details that when taken in aggregate can dramatically affect the final price there is no way for a good off the cuff answer.

So, when someone asks me a similar question in my business with such a lack of details my answer is usually something like, “Between $2,000 and $1,000,000.” A more meaningful answer requires a good deal of work to nail down.


There are various estimating books out there, some that provide generic per square foot budget costs. Sure, they’re only estimates, and the final result is going to depend on a lot of things… not least of which is what the market is like at the time you actually can put shovel to dirt.

Still, we gotta start somewhere.

Marshall and Swift provides an online estimator that I have found useful. All of the forementioned caveats about variances due to site-specific and other issues still apply, though.