How much does it cost to build a house?

With each choice you make, you can reduce your costs on housing exponentially and thus, leave more money for living, traveling or buying that new car you've had your eye on.

Do you know the saying "building a home is higher mathematics"?

Based on the amount of information you are supposed to work through when making a decision, the saying is accurate - only by carefully analyzing every detail can you be sure of a successful deal. Needless to say: the salesmen are people too, so the more you know, the better it is.

Transporting elements of prefab home by Elumaja LLC in Tartu Estonia.

Do your homework!

The best (and the simplest) way to get a feel for the potential price of your home (an approximate square footage price) is to look around in your neighborhood: ask around, consult real estate brokers (consultation is usually free), ask your friends, search the web - the more insight you have, the better deal you are likely to make.
After you have calculated an average square footage cost, you will multiply that cost by the finished square footage of your house plan to get a rough estimate. Simple as pie!

Assembly of first spatial unit of prefab home by Elumaja LLC.

An easy and a fast way to get the idea about costs is to compare your future house price with the new houses on sale in your area. Look at newly constructed homes that are similar in size, style, quality, and features to the home you want. Take the price of the home, deduct the price of the land, and divide that amount by the square footage of the home. More exact method would be calculating a construction budget item-by-item.
Here’s a budget template to help you out.

Go to the source (no middle-men)

It's a well-known fact, but the more middle-men you use the higher the price will be. Easy, right? Not really!

On average, a person uses about 3 to 4  different middle-men to get a product or a service. A solution to this is simple. For example, instead of going to a supermarket to get all of your groceries (dairy products, meat, veggies), you could visit local farmers to get the stuff. By doing so, you'll 'cut out' the purchasing managers, transportation and the grocery stores themselves, reducing the price of your food at the same time.

The same applies to housing. You could buy a fully furnished house and just worry about moving in. Or you could buy house plans off the internet (there are many such sites on the web) and let a local contractor build it.

Or you could build a house yourself. If DIY is a mystical combination of letters that makes no sense to you whatsoever, try building a greenhouse. It really is that easy!

By the way: buying stuff from the source (manufacturer) is the next big thing!

Less is more

The most expensive areas in a home are the bathrooms and the kitchens: the number of windows and/or doors their size and quality can and will also affect the cost. as can vaulted ceilings and high roof pitches.

Long story short: many houses are just too "bling" having excess features or elements, that will drain money during the construction and after you have moved in.

Assembling second unit of prefab home by Elumaja LLC.

In different parts of the world the housing culture varies a lot: in Scandinavia, for example, people are interested in a more natural living, focusing on keeping the costs down and the environment clean. Other parts of the world still seem to be hooked on the notion, that bigger is better. In terms of showing off, yes - that is exactly right. But in terms of living?

If you have a house that is expensive to build (mortgage) and expensive to maintain (time&money), how come is that an investment for you and your family? It seems more of an investment for the banks and/or real-estate developers, not you?

The truth is, a house can be built for less than $35,000 and at the same time, it can cost more than $3,500,000 - it's all up to you.

Just remember: a good home doesn't have to be expensive, but an expensive home doesn't have to be good.

Photos by Tiit Sild

Kodasema shows the future of home building.

Small prefabricated house from a company called Kodasema has been erected on the lawn in front of the Tallinn Creative Hub. It is a rather unique house with 27 square-metres of usable floor space, built-in cupboards and several surfaces for functional cross-usage (e.g. shower area is also used as a sink). I will be talking to Ülar Mark, one of the creators of Kodasema house concept, about the way they are trying to change the world while also hoping to shake the foundations of housebuilding industry.

Members of Kodasema searching for a name for the initiative.

Tiit Sild: Kodasema is a village in Roosna-Alliku Parish in Järva County that is just about everything Wikipedia has on the place. What is Your Kodasema?


Ülar Mark: Yes, there is a village and our name comes from there. In fact, the house built by Kodasema can only be a KODA.

The whole house is designed the way you could easily assemble and disassemble it. First assembly of Kodasema house took place in the factory.

During TAB (Tallinn Architecture Biennale), you invited us to participate in a three-hour discussion group. The topic was “Footprints” and the discussion revolved around new technologies, the future of building industry, lifecycle of buildings, business models in housebuilding industry, tax fraud in building construction and ecological footprint created by a person over his or her lifetime. Such a global subject matter discussed by people with interesting opinions, created a perfect atmosphere for ambitious ideas. You organised 5 separate three-hour discussion groups for people with different backgrounds. What was the aim of these discussions?

Ülar: Our aim was to look at the concept of residential construction in a wider and more holistic manner. The main challenge, as is the case with our KODA project, was to avoid the trap of “it has always been done this way”. The world and the possibilities it offers have changed significantly in the last 20 years. However, construction is a conservative field with a long established network of participants who are not keen on change.

We introduced our work, explained what we do and what we have accomplished after one year in business but also listened to suggestions what to consider while building a place for living.


Floor slab of Kodasema house does not need heavy foundation, but correct leveling is important.

Bathroom is located behind the kitchen unit, as well as most of the smart technical solutions and the brain of the house. Preistalled kitchen has a weird appearance in direct sunlight.

but the envelope will be closed only minutes after.

Frontal panel of the Kodasema house is transported and assembled as a whole piece. Precision is important, so the windows and door have no frames.

Setup is complete, let the party begin...

Lighted entrance is acting as a lantern, sending an invitation to curious people walking nearby.


Kodasema’s goal is to elevate the production of prefab houses to a completely new level. You often compare it to the automotive industry. What are you doing in a different way compared to, for instance, an ordinary plant that manufactures houses from flat elements?  

The main difference is the reduced or almost eliminated workload on the construction site. A KODA is built in just 3-5 hours and that’s it. It doesn’t even need foundations. The recommended soil preparation consists of spreading a layer of gravel prior to placing the house in position. Plus the exterior and interior decoration panels can be quickly installed. Traditionally interior finishing work is mostly performed on site, after the prefab house is set up, but in our case all of that’s done at the plant. This ensures better quality and lower installation costs. Of course, water supply, electricity and sewerage connections still have to be sorted out. Comparing it to a car factory is fitting, really. Why don’t houses come with sophisticated electronics? Why can’t houses be made with minute precision using robots? Why do all cars have nice, carefully considered designs but most houses seem to be constructed in a hurry, often with no design to see or speak of? It’s a glaring juxtaposition when you remember that a used car usually ends up as scrap within about 15 years, but a house is expected to remain in use for centuries. Logically, houses should have better design and functionality, but sadly the reality is very different.

One of the founders of Kodasema, Ülar Mark (second from the left) is giving a tour to curious visitors.


Is Kodasema more like a traditional house manufacturer or a startup that is still looking for its business model?


Ülar: Kodasema can rather be described as a startup, that is looking for a new approach to building construction and construction process as a whole. For example, our house does not have window sashes in the traditional sense of the word. They are simply unnecessary since the whole panel itself is the window sash. Usually window openings are designed to be fitted with window sashes at a cheaper price. However, this adds a number of problems: the space between the opening and window frame must be adequate for fastenings, the sash itself must be constructed of chambers, etc. All this in order to fill the opening while actually simultaneously creating thermal bridges.


The creators of Kodasema house are six people with completely different backgrounds. Tell us briefly what these people do and what drives them. What brought this group together?


At the moment everybody seems passionate about the Koda project. Their backgrounds, however, are indeed very different. Hannes Tamjärv has founded a bank and a school and has been the brains behind a number of endeavours. Taavi Jakobson has made a name for himself in international administration of IT field and is also a writer. Kalev Ramjalg is a Master of building from concrete and a teacher who has also written several plays. Marek Standberg is simply a man of multiple talents ranging from chemistry to drawing comics. Andres Kaur is a project manager who has put up plants. And Ülar Mark, an architect who has, in addition to designing houses, launched the Estonian Centre of Architecture and created theatre design. All in all, it would be quite difficult to find a field this team cannot form an opinion about. Obviously, we also have several people who deal with specific problems: structural designer, designers for ventilation, water and sewerage etc.


You are completely devoted to the creation of Kodasema house. The first prototype is ready. What have people´s reactions been? Are they willing to live in Kodasema house?


Initial reactions have been overwhelming but we are trying to keep a cool head about it. First of all, we have already determined areas where improvements could be made and secondly, the measure of our success will be the number of Koda houses we manage to sell. I think we are providing a well-thought-out space and it shows. Before long, we shall be testing living in the house at its current location and there is no shortage of volunteers. The first trial will include us and then everyone else who wants to try and give us feedback.  



Kodasema houses look elegant, light and a little delicate. So what are they made of? What materials are used in KODA’s walls, ceiling and roof?


The walls, floor and ceiling are of a similar composition: fibre-concrete on the outside and cross laminated timber boards on the inside, with vacuum insulation between them. All of the elements are joined into a whole using plastic beams. Combinations of concrete and timber like this make interior decoration easier and save plenty of space and materials, because the number of layers is reduced.

Small house needs precision in process. One of the early assembly models showing the connections between house elements. 

In your Kodasema house design solutions you have implemented interesting elements, such as old sailcloth patterns applied to exterior thin fibre-panel wall surfaces in the course of their moulding, resulting in a truly special texture and lightness.


That was achieved after months of testing with all sorts of plastics, films and PVC boards.

Team member Marek is experimenting with different patterns to give character to outer appearance of Kodasema.

Final result is appealing and ecological, recycling sailorcloths, capturing their pattern for future generations.

Has the development process of Koda house been slower or faster than expected?


We hoped to reach the first prototype sooner but, in hindsight, it has actually been a fast pace process considering that we questioned and considered the necessity and form of almost every detail.


Do Kodasema houses need foundations?

KODA doesn’t need foundations. The structure was calculated so as to allow the floorboards to rest anywhere on stones.

First prototype of the sink in bathroom.


What are the development stages of a house as a product? How often do you meet?

Looking back, there seems to be a certain rhythm to our work, but during the work process we just did what seemed right to us, often manoeuvring between issues that emerged. We did not held specific meetings, it actually feels like we have been living together for the last year and concentrating only on this project. Initially we worked from 9 to 5 and later almost around the clock. I can´t imagine we would have got even close to our current results, if everybody had worked traditionally at his desk in an office, meeting once or twice a week.

One of the many meetings of Kodasema people, discussing smart technologies involved.

How long does it take for a Kodasema house to be ready - from producing the elements at a plant to actually assembling the house?

The first prototype was ready within a year. At the moment, our aim is 2-3 weeks at a plant.


Many similar undertaking have been less than successful. To date there has been no breakthrough in the field of modern modular houses, in terms of both technology and appearance. What makes you different?


I could list lots of reasons, I guess. Why can you manufacture cars in modules and not houses? The car market is more uniform; there’s less fluctuation. One of the issues with the construction industry is that real estate booms are interspersed with more subdued periods of demand. Add to that the different wishes of different customers, regional differences and strict regulations of local authorities on building plans and implementation. Then there’s the pricing pressure on the house, which comes from the cost of the plot?  


Early 1 to 1 scale  mockup of the house (left) helped to  understand the possibilities of the space and also to figure out more creative solutions.

You have finished the first prototype. What are the main lessons you have learned during the process, how will the next house differ from the first one?


The prototype is and will be a test house. During the whole process, we allowed ourselves to make mistakes. If you don´t allow errors, it is very difficult to come up with something new. If the prototype didn´t have any faults, it would have been a wasted opportunity. The main lesson is to remember the simple truth: the importance of a team and their dedication, i.e. time.  In fact, the willingness to dedicate yourself and concentrate on something is on the decline. As a result, original solutions have become scarce. Main emphasis is on cheapness and sales.


You are an architect. You gave up working with fellow architects and focused on a new and quite specific field that demands a different set of skills. What is its appeal for you?


To me, everything that surrounds us is one single environment. When we build something on this planet or shift materials from one location to another, we should think about how to do it in the best possible way. If there were a better approach or term than architect(ure), I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to use it. I can’t agree to anyone hijacking the concept of architect(ure) and limiting its scope. If I need other skills for more efficient project work, I’ll have to acquire them. I’m fascinated by how deep I can become immersed in my work, thoroughly researching new issues until I find clear and exhaustive answers. After all, an answer to every question we pose exists somewhere out there. Once you achieve the result you want, you should review the initial questions you asked, as they often can and should be rephrased in view of your achievements. That’s something you can do repeatedly, defining your objectives again and again. The conventional practice is for the architect to do the commissioned work and then forget about it ASAP, because tomorrow’s a new day and a whole new world. For various reasons, input from the architect is less and less required in drafting the concept of a building. And later, when construction’s underway, everyone prefers the architect to get involved as little as possible. I was never interested in going down that road. I did try to adjust my attitude, but it never worked.


Now that you are involved in product development, how does your workday differ from the time when you worked only as an architect?  


More meetings, details, abstract discussions, creativity, doing U-turns and starting things all over. Much less cursing, gossiping, nagging, conflicts and disputes within myself.

What is your next big objective?


I am not sure about the next one after we have achieved our first simple objective – build thousands of houses that are becoming better in quality and design and cheaper in price. As a professional I feel more like a car designer than an architect, the only difference being that I also feel responsible for the way the car parks look.  


Founders of Kodasema: Hannes Tamjärv, Taavi Jakobson, Ülar Mark, Kalev Ramjalg, Marek Strandberg, Andres Kaur

Photos by: Andres Kaur

Here you can find more information about Koda.

Founder of Kodasema Ülar Mark in the picture below) was interviewed by Tiit Sild ( Ülar was also a jury member in the architecture contest of prefabricated houses.

Dekleva Gregorič, Slovenian architects designed cabins for! is proud to announce cooperation with well-known Slovenian architectural office Dekleva Gregorič. The architects have proposed 3 cabins with distinctive designs meant to be used  as either small living units, summer houses, home offices or saunas. “Dekleva Gregorič is a firm whose individual buildings vary considerably in appearance, because with their conceptually developed projects the architects from Ljubljana respond in a special way to the respective context.” chief editor Christian Schittich in DETAIL 05/2015.

All 3 cabins will be produced as a whole spacial units, are easy to transport and need only lightweight basement or just some supporting stones under constructions. 3 different size designs vary in functionality, but have all plans and terraces that face towards the sun.

Monohouse - M - 20m² is designed according to new Swedish building regulations* and does not need a building permission. The whole living, cooking, dining and sleeping area is one big space that can adapt to your own needs.

The smallest of three designs, Monohouse - S – 14 m² is able to accommodate different functions.

The most spacious one, Monohouse - L - 25m² has space for two double beds and could accommodate up to 4 persons. However, the design enables for a completely empty unit as well, to be used as a shell of any desirable programme of future users.

You can check out all the cabins designed by Dekleva Gregorič right here.

About Dekleva Gregorič architects:

Image: //

XXS house, photograph Matevz Paternoster

The work of Dekleva Gregorič architects first received international attention with XXS house and was awarded the Silver Plate, European Architecture Award Luigi Cosenza, in 2004, and the WALLPAPER* award, Best breakthrough designers, in 2005. In 2009.

Metal recycling plant, photograph Matevz Paternoster

The Metal recycling plant ODPAD was nominated and shortlisted for the Mies van den Rohe Award 2009, was awarded at the International Architecture Awards 2009, and won Plečnik’s Medal prize in Slovenia among others. In 2009 they also won the international 40 under 40 award from the European Centre for Architecture, Art, Design and Urban Studies.

Clifftop house in Maui, photograph Cristobal Palma

In 2012 the Clifftop house on Maui received 2nd place at the AIT awards, in the Luxury Living category, and at the International Architecture Awards 2012. The same year the office was selected for a Highly Commended group of practices for ’21 for 21′ WAN AWARDS 2012 – searching for “21 architects for the 21st Century. The initiative aims to highlight 21 architects who could be the leading lights of architecture in the 21st Century; outstanding, forward-thinking people and organisations who have the demonstrable potential to be the next big thing in the architectural world.”

Cultural Space of European Space Technologies by Dekleva Gregorič architects together with Bevk Perović architects, OFIS architects and Sadar + Vuga architects. Photograph Tomaz Gregorič

Two of their projects, Housing Perovo and KSEVT (Cultural Centre of EU Space Technologies), were nominated for the Mies van den Rohe Award 2013. Recently, their latest finalized project: Compact Karst House, has been nominated for the Mies van den Rohe Award 2015.

*You can check out the original version Swedish building regulations in Swedish here, but as the text is not yet translated into english, you could get an idea of the content checing this rough translated version (by google translator) here.

Estonians And Lithuanians Win Prefabricated Wooden House Architecture Competition March 24, 2015

The winners of the architecture competition organized by web-based architecture marketplace for prefabricated wooden houses were announced on monday, 23th of March at the Solaris Centre. The winning design for the Stavanger development site in Norway came from Estonian architecture firm ARS Projekt (Rasmus Tamme, Reio Raudsepp, Rene Safin, Evelin Eelmaa, Joonas Saan, Kristjan Männigo, Kristina Oolu, Karolin Kõll) and the winning design for the Ülenurme site near Tartu, Estonia came from the Lithuanian firm Paleka Archstudija (Rolandas Palekas, Dalia Zakaite, Mantas Skirmantas).

The international architecture competition drew 47 entries from 21 countries, the furthest of which came from Taiwan, Australia and the United States. The competition was organized by web-based architecture marketplace in conjunction with timber house manufacturers Nurban AS and Kodumaja Kinnisvaraarenduse OÜ. The competition was announced last autumn with the goal of finding modern, smart and attractive solutions for two development sites: Svertingstad Gård near Stavanger, Norway and Ülenurme near Tartu, Estonia. The jury selected three winning entries for both the Norwegian as well as the Estonian sites.


The main organizer of the competition, Tiit Sild, and his web-based architecture marketplace is focused on the idea of making our living environment better. "I believe that there is no reason why a prefabricated house shouldn’t also be a prime example of modern architecture,” Sild said. “An architecture competition was a good opportunity to inspire architects to create modern designs for prefabricated houses out of the most popular construction material in Estonia – wood. Estonia has become Europe’s largest timber house exporter, which gives us the prime opportunity to become a ringleader in the modern architecture and design of wooden houses.”


Margus Pauts, member of the jury and Managing Director of timber element and modular house manufacturer Nurban AS says that he’s very satisfied with the results of the competition: “We’re looking for the kinds of houses that people would really want to live in. And I can assure you that the competition was a success because we found just such designs.” Another jury member, Lembit Lump of Kodumaja AS, added that there were many competition entries that he found architecturally intriguing, which accounted for the manufacturing capabilities of the Estonian timber industry.


Svertingstad Gård, Norway


1st place: 5000€, design NIHE - ARS Projekt OÜ (Rasmus Tamme, Reio Raudsepp, Rene Safin, Evelin Eelmaa, Joonas Saan, Kristjan Männigo, Kristina Oolu, Karolin Kõll) – Estonia (on upper picture left)


2nd place: 3500€, design WOODY - 3+1 Architects (Gert Guriev, Markus Kaasik, Riin Kersalu, Kerstin Kivila, Taavi Lõoke, Mihkel Meriste, Andres Ojari, Ilmar Valdur) – Estonia


3rd place: 2000€, design RHC1PA - Anna Zukowska Architecture Studio, Maciej Žukowski – Poland


Ülenurme, Estonia

1st place: 4000€, key word PRIVATE CIRCLE, Paleka Archstudija (Rolandas Palekas, Dalia Zakaite, Mantas Skirmantas) – Lithuania (on second picture left)


2nd place: 2500€, key word SEE, Karisma Arhitektid (Risto Parve, Kai Süda, Margit Valma) – Estonia


3rd place: 1500€: key word TRFGHM, Gianluca Pelizzi Pelizziarchitettura – Italy


VELUX special mention for best use of roof lighting: 700€, key word BOK-BOK, Veljko Armano Linta, Ana Armano Linta, David Azinović, Ivana Ćavar – Croatia


Jury special mention: key word POSTBARN, raumspielkunst Architectural Design & Concepts, Florian Lachenmann – Germany


The prize money will be paid out to winner by the Estonian Cultural Endowment and they will be contacted by the competition organizers within 15 days.


The competition works will be on display on the second floor of the Solaris Centre, in front of the Apollo bookstore until April 5th.


The architecture competition was supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the Estonian Ministry of Culture, Velux, Q-Haus, Fenestra, the Tartu City Government, the Enterprise Department of the Tallinn City Government, entertainment centre Solaris, the Estonian Centre of Architecture, the Norwegian-Estonian Chamber of Commerce, Puukeskus, the Estonian Woodhouse Association and the Enterprise Estonia Regional Development Fund


A web gallery of competition works can be seen here. is a web-based architecture marketplace what strives to improve our living environment by bringing together the best of high-quality, modern design with the manufacturers of prefabricated houses. The designs on our website are available to all first-rate house manufacturers.


Additional information:

Tiit Sild

+372 55 601 425