The construction prices here in Luxembourg can seem daunting, but we have put together ideas on how you can circumvent some of those high costs and still build the home you desire.
The price problem
With saw mills, factories and shipping getting shut down during the pandemic, we saw sharp increases in the price of materials. Wood increased almost 400% in 2021, and many other supplies were simply not to be found. Now we are being faced with a different problem due to the increase of energy prices. Wood has come back down, but energy intensive materials such as concrete and steel are much more expensive.
The cost of materials is only a part of the problem. The most substantial factor in high construction prices is the cost of labor. The cost of living in Luxembourg is very high, and for workers coming from more economical regions, their traveling time and expenses have drastically increased. This is why the quotes from the same company can be so different depending on where you are building.
Start with good planning
Understanding the timeline of design and construction is key. You will need to know when you need to make decisions so that the right companies can be contacted at the right time. This will help avoid unnecessary delays and last-minute orders that can really add to the costs.
It is very important that you work with architects and engineers that do well thought-out design and construction documents. As Frank Lloyd Wright said, “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or a sledgehammer on the construction site.” When the plans and details are generated from a 3D computer model and carefully executed, this will save you from a lot of miscommunication and very expensive changes to make on site later.
The design of your home
As the zoning regulations are being updated in many communes around Luxembourg, changes are being made that could be financially beneficial. In some neighborhoods where there are now old, single-family homes, you will now be permitted to build an integrated apartment or even a multi-family building. Selling or renting out the additional units could help pay for your home.
One of the biggest costs you can avoid is not to have an underground cellar. Not only do you save by not paying for the heavy machinery to do the digging, you do not have to worry about the removal and disposal of the soil. This is especially true if your building site has hard stone or natural wells that can add to the cost and risks. Not to mention the extra pumps you need to install to prevent flooding.
If your home is designed well with open spaces that coalesce with outdoor terraces, you can have a much smaller home without it feeling as if you downsized. Reducing the footprint while keeping an inspiring atmosphere can cut costs and add to the value of your home.
As we mentioned in the opening, the costs of different materials have been fluctuating radically over the past few years. We have never experienced anything like this, and it has been challenging to navigate through it. Some of the factors you need to consider when making decisions are the current prices of the raw materials, how much energy and time does the production take, what the shipping costs will be, and the amount of labor needed for construction.
For example, the price of lumber has dropped from 1400 USD per thousand feet to below 400 USD over the last year. Wood systems such as cross laminated timber can also be advantageous because the walls and slabs can be preassembled in a factory where the conditions are safer and easier to operate with fewer workers. The assembly on site then goes very quickly. Light timber framing is also advantageous because the standard wood elements are light enough for workers to carry and build without the use of heavy machinery and cranes.
There are many advantages to technological developments. A smart home can help save energy and add to security, but the costs of designing and building a smart home can be very high. There are many low-tech solutions that will solve the problems the applications do, and without the complexity and long-term maintenance costs.
Although the cost of land can warrant needing to build things like a car lift, in many cases this can be avoided. Either having an above ground garage or dedicated parking can save a lot of money upfront and the hassle of maintenance and problems with these heavy systems.
Another way to reduce the complexity of construction is to choose a structural system that can be exposed as an interior finish. For example, cross laminated timber can be a beautiful material to have exposed on the walls and ceilings.
Investing for long term savings and added value
Sometimes more initial upfront investment is something that can save you a lot of money over the lifetime of the home. The energy efficiency regulations in Luxembourg are already very strong, but more investment in renewable energy sources like photovoltaic panels to bring your home up to a zero energy or plus energy home could benefit you greatly over time.
The choice of façade will also make a difference. The least expensive facades can need a lot of cleaning and maintenance over time, so understanding which materials hold up well is key. We have written a guide to facades which you can download and read for free on our resources page here: https://saharchitects.lu/resources-home-design/
Your home is one of the most important investments you will make, not just for financial reasons, but also for your well-being. When designed and constructed expertly, it will retain its value in many ways, so it is important to find the right balance between the initial costs and long term investment.
Title photo and first photo: A private home we designed in Roodt.
Second photo: A private home we designed in Dondelange
Third photo: An apartment building we designed in Naihaischen for Codur
Photos by steve troes fotodesign.
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