Firstly, a word of warning: always take quotes for big building projects with a pinch of salt. Remember the Channel Tunnel? That was supposed to cost less than £5 billion – it came in at nearly double that, making it the most expensive construction project ever at the time.
Bear that in mind, then, when you delve into a new report from the builders’ merchant, Travis Perkins, which has estimated how much it would cost to construct the New Seven Wonders of the World (a list published in 2007 as a result of an initiative by a Swiss corporation, which was subsequently the target of criticism from tourist boards over "hidden costs" and voting methods).
Unsurprisingly, the Great Wall of China came in at the costliest construction. To build the 13,171-mile structure today, Travis Perkins reckons, would cost an estimated £54 billion, which is roughly equivalent to the GDP of Panama.
And the timescale? Just 18 months, apparently, which seems wildly optimistic when you consider that it took more than three years to build London’s Shard.
Historians claim the Great Wall of China took around 2,000 years to build and many labourers are thought to have died during its construction.
The next most expensive wonder to construct would, it is claimed, would be Rome’s Colosseum, which has been given a monetary budget of £400 million and a time allowance of two years by Travis Perkins. That time scale seems also seems optimistic given that Italy is a country littered with half-finished building projects.
According to the report, India’s Taj Mahal would be the third most expensive wonder to build, costing an estimated £70 million and requiring two years.
Travis Perkins arrived at its estimates by examining the materials, manpower, tools and building techniques used when the New Seven Wonders were originally made. The company acknowledged that it would likely take many additional years for such projects to secure planning permission, which wasn’t something the Ming Dynasty had to worry about.
“These projects were huge and required the mobilisation of thousands, if not millions of workers as well as vast swathes of land, which in today’s world of planning permission and land ownership would be extremely difficult to do,” said Sarah Collett of Travis Perkins.
“Significant improvements in technology means that the wonders could be built in a fraction of the time they originally were, however it would come at a cost, in the shape of the prices of modern machinery and labour.
“Where the ancients used goats and chisels, we could use lorries and motorised saws.”