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We frequently get asked how much it will cost to build your own chalet. In general we quote 2500€/m2 as a benchmark. Sometimes we qualify this with “of course it depends on many many, factors”, such as the floor area, quality of materials and fixtures and fittings, easy of building on the site, proximity of services and things like that. But in the end 2500€/m2 is a good place to start. So if you were building a 4 bedroom 140m2 chalet then a starting point would be 350,000 € to build the chalet after you have bought the land.
When I mention these figures to UK-based buyers that know about these things they take a sharp intake of breath. Apparently you can build houses in the UK for much less than that. Closer to 1500€/m2 I’m told and sometimes even less. So why the big difference? Some of my opinions follow:
- Everything costs more in the Alps. In particular materials and more importantly labour.
- We are not comparing like with like. The “average” chalet in the Alps is higher quality than a cheap house in the UK.
- The build methods in the Alps are more expensive. In general the properties have concrete basements and first floors. This makes a very solid property, sometimes due to earthquake and avalanche risks it’s mandatory to build this way. It’s also just “the way it’s done”, much like in the UK houses have traditionally been built from brick.
There are various things you can do to reduce these costs. Taking each point one by one.
- I’m not going to suggest importing your materials from afar or even you labour (though both these things are possible and may save money).
- Building a cheap quality chalet is not a good idea, it would be a real shame to waste the worlds resources on building a house that won’t last.
- Build methods, there could be money saved here. It may also bring in points one and two. I’m referring to kit chalets.
My neighbour is a carpenter and he has just built a chalet using mostly traditional techniques. The basement is concrete as are some of the first floor walls. The main frame was a kit though, the walls arrived on a lorry and ready built. He’s obviously building on a budget but doesn’t want to live in a cardboard box. His build costs will be well under 2000€/m2.
We’ve recently been approached by a ECSUS Design, who have recently completed a chalet in Samoens and are constructing a couple more in Morzine this summer. These guys either design your home or adapt an existing design and fabricate using Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) that are precision engineered and cut to size to ensure an exceptionally quick method of building a highly thermally efficient chalet. The main weather-tight structure can be erected in as little as 3-4 weeks and can be easily finished by an adventurous self builder or they can do the entire job for you. The average costs of the SIPS structure is about 450€/m2 which represents about 30% of the overall costs of a new chalet and means that a fully managed build can come in at under 2000€/m2. Now I can’t act as a reference for these guys but they can offer references if interested. The company is http://www.ecsusdesign.com/ and the SIPs system is http://www.tek.kingspan.com/ They supplied me with the lovely photo of the finished chalet in Samoens. I have used it to illustrate this post.