How much would Hogwarts and GoT's Wall cost in real life?
You've watched and read about these iconic fantasy-fiction structures, but can you guess how much they would cost to build in reality?
From the final season of HBO’s Game of Thrones (GoT) to WB Games San Francisco and Niantic’s Harry Potter: Wizards Unite mobile game based on J K Rowling’s classic, 2019 is an exciting year for fans of fantasy-fiction – or, as some are dubbed, Potterheads and GoT nerds. As various plotlines engage these fantasy-fiction universes – who will win the ‘Iron Throne’, and can the ‘wizarding world’ truly ward off Calamity? – the Construction Week team is piqued by some equally interesting questions: how much would it cost to build Harry Potter’s Hogwarts school castle, GoT’s ice-laden Wall, or Star Wars’ Death Star in the real world, and how much would Bat Cave’s computer cost in reality?
Billions of dollars each, as it turns out.
The ficitional school Hogwarts’ Qudditch pitch alone would need more than $1m to develop, whilst its Great Hall will require up to $870,000. These costs, however, pale in comparison to the price tags on Batman’s home, Bat Cave. The cave’s construction would cost $7.2m, whilst its supercomputer will need a whopping $290m, according to one estimate.
Big Rentz, an American equipment rental firm headquartered in Irvine, California, has derived the total construction costs of the top architectural icons from fantasy-fiction pop culture, including – in addition to Hogwarts, GoT’s Wall, and Bat Cave – Star Wars’ Death Star and Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. With a total real-life build cost of $174.5m, Hogwarts is the least expensive structure on this list – but which structure is the most expensive to translate from fiction to reality, and why? Read on to find out.
British author J K Rowling gained millions of fans when her fantasy-fiction novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the stands in 1997. Rowling has since expanded the so-called ‘wizarding’ universe, with Niantic’s mobile game, Wizards Unite, to be released next year.
Hogwarts, the alma mater of noted fictional characters such as Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, and Severus Snape (and of course, You-Know-Who), may not be the centrepiece of the game that comes out next year, but it certainly holds great significance for fans of the chart-busting fiction Harry Potter books and movies. Supposedly founded around the 10th century, the British school is a major point of focus for Harry Potter’s seven books, eight movies, and a host of other related fiction media.
The fictional seven-floor structure features several towers and an underground level. The castle structure, estimated to cost $169.74m, spans around 3.84ha and bears a likeness to the UK’s real-life Windsor Castle, with its price per ft2 valued at $410. The school’s 5,800ft2 banquet hall – the Great Hall where Voldemort was defeated by his nemesis, Harry – is valued at $150 per ft2.
Why does the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch cost more than a million dollars, though? That’s because a 90,000ft2 field – which the Qudditch grounds at Hogwarts are approximated at – has an average cost of $427,500. However, the 16 watchtowers that made up the prime viewing areas for Harry’s aerial feats against Draco Malfoy cost around $37,655 each, taking the Qudditch pitch’s total cost to around $1,032,000.
Two key features made Hogwarts special to the readers and viewers of Harry Potter, despite the obvious fantastical nature of the series. The first of these are the school’s eight greenhouses, where Professor Sprout and her best students – including Neville Longbottom – worked on numerous botanical areas of study. Each of these greenhouses would cost around $25,000 to build.
Finally comes the venue of Buckbeak’s great escape in fan-favourite Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Hagrid’s Hut. According to Big Rentz, the hut’s cost would amount to $400,000 – a value based on Rowling’s stone cottage replica of the same price.
The figures listed above bring Hogwarts’ real-life construction cost to $174.5m, but as mentioned, it is the least expensive structure on this list. It is preceded on the list of most expensive pop culture icons by the home of DC superhero Batman.
Fans have varying ideas about its true size, and Big Rentz uses one such estimate of the building: spanning 12,000ft2, Batman’s home is a massive structure with a cost of $600 per ft2, taking the cave’s construction cost to $7.2m. Its elevator and secret entrance cost another $145,000 to build, of which $45,000 is taken up by the secret bookcase entrance. The five-storey elevator costs $16,000 per level.
Batman is equally at home in his lab, which according to Big Rentz’s estimates would cost as much as one university-level research laboratory to build. The cost of Bat Cave’s lab is estimated at $8.98m.
However, the highlights of Bat Cave are undoubtedly its technical features, one of which is its supercomputer. Big Rentz estimates Bat Cave’s supercomputer has a likeness to IBM’s 2,500 ft2 Blue Gene Supercomputer, which costs $290m.
But the cost of being Batman must also be factored into the Cave’s cost – after all, it’s hard to think of DC’s superhero without his accompanying vehicles. The Batwing – also referred to as the Batplane or Batjet – is similar to the US Marine V-22 Osprey and costs $60m, according to Big Rentz data, which adds the plane’s costs to the Cave’s final amount (the 2012 film The Dark Knight refers to the Batwing as ‘The Bat’). Unsurprisingly though, it is Batman’s iconic Batmobile that takes the bulk of the Cave’s garage spend: modelled on a Cadillac Sixteen (which costs around $2m), the Batmobile is fitted with armour plating, smokescreen systems, and electrified door handles, taking its total value to $2.16m.
So, with a total real-life build cost of $368m, Batman’s Bat Cave is more than double the value of Harry Potter’s school – but, it speaks volumes about the nature of fantasy fiction that, even at this price, Bat Cave is only the fourth-most expensive structure on Big Rentz list. Straddling the middle of the list is another iconic home – Star Trek’s USS Enterprise saucer.
At 2,380ft in length and 625ft high, there’s no doubt that Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, also known as the Starship Enterprise, is a large place to live and work in. With a 1,000ft diameter, the ship uses steel worth $25.8tn – the equivalent of materials from two Gerald R Ford aircraft carriers worth $12.98bn each. The ship’s replicators, meanwhile, cost $110,000, a cost derived from the Maker Bot Replicator 2 that they share a likeness with. Star Trek’s iconic ship would need 50 devices, each of which would cost $2,200.
Next up – the Holodeck. A single curved 3D TV, at one point, cost up to $14,000 – at this astronomical rate, the Holodeck’s requirement for 72 such units would easily add $1m to its cost. Add to that its 36 high-performance PCs, each at a price of $3,000, and the Holodeck’s value rises to $1.1m.
Starship Enterprise’s Photon Torpedos are, without a doubt, some of its most expensive elements – the ship would need 36 missiles, with each unit of its closest real-life replica costing $30.9bn. As a result, the torpedo’s cost totals $1.1bn, easily taking the ship’s value to more than double the prices of Hogwarts and Bat Cave combined – and that’s without factoring its $1m transporters. Modelled on Synthetic Genomics’s real-life 3D DNA printers that once cost around $50,000, the teleporter’s total cost includes the price of the five separate rooms needed to house four printers each.
However, the costs listed above appear minimal compared to the value of the Star Trek aircraft’s Detector Shield. Now, real-life equivalents for force fields are limited, so Big Rentz has used the value of the US Army’s Pass plasma shield and Florida University’s 32-tesla superconducting magnets to arrive at its estimates. The Pass shield is worth at least $2.7m, while the superconducting magnets – which the ship would need 50 of – cost $1m each.
All of these raise the Starship Enterprise’s total real-life build cost to a grand $27bn, according to Big Rentz’s estimates. That is no doubt a high price to pay for a home-office, but fans will agree that the ship provides decent value for money – especially when one considers that it is a full $140bn cheaper than Big Rentz’s second-most expensive fictional structure on the list.
Game of Thrones’ iconic ice structure is a lot more expensive than some might think: at 482km in length, the 700x300ft wall would need $606,000 just to build each section of its core structure. The Great Wall of China’s replica in Nanchang, at 4km, is the closest real-life example of GoT’s wall. Based on the Chinese replica’s dimensions, the GoT wall would need 105,000 sections, and at the cost/section listed above, its total structural value rises to $31.8bn – and we haven’t even gotten to the ice, its elevator, or the critical Castle Black yet.
So, how much would The Wall’s ice in GoT cost if it were a real-world structure? The answer is $110.8bn. The wall would require 184.8 million blocks of ice to be fully wrapped in, and each three-foot block would come at a labour cost of $600. Relatively inexpensive are The Wall’s elevators, which have a construction hoist value of $30,000. Including that and the 700ft-high customised timber framing worth $189,000, The Wall’s lift system would come with a price tag of $219,000. In a similar, under $300,000-range are The Wall’s Scorpions – using the Ballista catapults as real-life models, which cost $26,800 per unit, the Scorpions’ total cost for 10 would come to $286,000.
Still, the two most impressive features of The Wall are its battlements and Castle Black. The former would cost a whopping $23.7bn – the top of the wall spans 475.2 million ft2, and the moat defense would be charged at $50 per ft2. Still, some GoT fans might consider this a small price to keep the White Walkers out.
Finally comes Castle Black, which according to New York publication The Real Deal would cost $2.74m. It is one of the three fictional castles located on The Wall, along with Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and The Shadow Tower, around halfway along The Wall’s length on its south. If Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) ever sells the 5,000m2 home of the Night’s Watch, he’d find that the “property’s remote location accounts for its particular appeal”, said Christoph Freiherr Schenck zu Schweinsberg, an expert on castles for Engel & Völkers, to The Real Deal. “With a small amount of renovation the entire compound can be modernised to meet current technological standards. Live-in professional security personnel increases the value of the property.”
According to Big Rentz, these values combined take The Wall’s total real-life build cost to $167bn – undoubtedly a small price to pay, according to some GoT fans, for protecting the boundaries of the Seven Kingdoms. More importantly, The Wall’s cost – much like those of the other structures on this list so far – has been in familiar denominations, such as millions, billions, and trillions. The final building on Big Rentz’s list is so expensive that its prices range in quadrillions – or one thousand trillion – and nonillion, a 32-figure cost.
The fictional mobile space station and galactic ship from Star Wars is available at a fittingly astronomical price. The gigantic ship spans 140km in diameter and weighs 822.8 trillion tonnes. Its size means it requires equally massive quantities of steel, which means its total 822.8 trillion tonnes will need steel worth $537.9 quadrillion – or, if you prefer, $537,900tn. But, unbelievable as it may seem, the steel isn’t even the Death Star’s most expensive element.
Similarly inexpensive are its laser cannons, which the ship would need 2,500 of. Big Rentz uses the US Navy’s Laws laser cannon as a reference for its list, with each unit priced at $40m. In total, Death Star’s laser cannons would cost $100bn.
Still cheaper is Docking Bay 327 of the ship, within which the Millennium Falcon was pulled in with a tractor beam after its takeover. Big Rentz estimates that two Millennium Falcons could be accommodated into the 64,000ft2 hangar, with its total cost estimated at $870,000 at a per ft2 value of $22.
If a developer ever needed reminding of just how much facilities management can truly cost, Death Star holds a lesson: its maintenance droids – a fleet made up of 400,000 industrial robots worth $80,000 apiece – cost $32bn. Given the size of Death Star, the relatively nominal amount was, perhaps, science-fiction’s first example of how automation can benefit real estate – be it on land or elsewhere. Speaking of which, ever wondered how much would it cost to send Death Star to space? Big Rentz says $21.6 quintillion. For those unfamiliar with the term; a quintillion in US terms is equal to 10,000,000 trillion.
Sending an 822.8 trillion-tonne structure to space was never going to be inexpensive, and at a cost/pound of $44,000, Big Rentz’s estimate may be taken up for peer review in the space science community. Regardless, it sheds light on just how much the operation would have cost.
But, how much would the ever-popular Superlaser cost? Big Rentz uses a 200-joule laser for likeness, with each such unit costing $14m. The energy needed to operate the Superlaser would come to 2E+27 joules. All of this means the total cost of the Superlaser would be $17.5 nonillion. A nonillion has 30 zeroes in it, which means the Superlaser is easily worth more than the gross domestic product of the entire continent of Asia, which amounted to $3,352 trillion as of October 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund.
So where does that leave us in terms of Death Star’s total cost? According to Big Rentz, the Star Wars ship would cost $17.5 nonillion – a 32-figure cost – to build in real life. That’s excluding the cost of the technology that Death Star would require to be conceptualised, constructed, and operated.
As Big Rentz explains, the figures listed above exclude the costs of labour and other related construction. However, “building these structures with current technology and engineering is not so far-fetched”.
The website adds: “Even if constructed in their bare forms, it would still be impressive to see some of these sculptural icons come to life in the real world.”