Until 1875 there was no building industry in the western Malay states. In the villages cooperative effort produced the houses and other structures that were required. The larger residences of the ruling class were built by mobilizing villagers to build in the same fashion but on a larger scale. The colonial administrators had at first to use the same resources and techniques to get what they required. Gradually, however, there was a change to a different style using new materials and designs. In response to government and commercial needs a building industry evolved. The information is patchy, but this article attempts to trace how it happened up to 1914, when the outbreak of war interrupted the supply of building materials and imposed a standstill. The main focus is on Kuala Lumpur, but there are references to Selangor and Perak generally.