Difference Between Modern and Traditional Building Material

A safe and comfortable shelter is something that every individual wants and deserves. It is one of the most basic human rights, just after food and clean water.

The structure, material, and make-up of the basic constituents of building materials might have changed over the years but the output remains the same, a safe haven.

From the caves to huts to the modern-day high rise, we can see how buildings change the landscape of any area.

Building a home is not exclusive to human beings, certain birds create the most elaborate and beautiful nests, with twigs, leaves, mud, and similar items.

In the earlier civilizations and even previous eras, humans as well used items found in nature like mud, clay bamboo, rocks, and wood, etc to make a building.

As revolution and industrialization came into play, the building got more modernized and so did the materials used, concrete, bricks, steel, glass, and even aluminum became the standard modern building material.

Modern vs Traditional Building Material

The main difference between modern and traditional building material is that the traditional buildings were constructed with locally sourced material and there was no out-sourcing of any sort. In its modern counterparts, the materials are both out-sourced and locally found.

Modern vs Traditional Building Material

Comparison Table Between Modern and Traditional Building Material

Parameters of ComparisonModern Building Material Traditional Building Material
Sourced fromFrom outside the local area, as transportation is not that of a problem.Locally scoured.
UniquenessSustainability and strength are two important factors of this.The materials were locally scoured so good for the local economy.
DurabilityAlmost all the buildings made up of modern material are sturdy and durable.They were not mostly durable, though few famous ones have survived centuries.
CostThe cost is more.The cost is less.

What are Modern Building Materials?

The most known materials are undoubtedly concrete and brick. Concrete is composed of not only cement but also coarse particles mixed with it, to give it better strength.

The concrete can be molded into various shapes as per the requirement and can be used to form a column, a beam, a foundation, and many more.

There are various types of concrete as well like plain or ordinary, lightweight, high density, reinforced concrete, etc. 

Bricks are similar in function and are the basic building materials of any construction.

They are mostly used in the Asian and European countries and are basically baked mud which is held together with the help of cement.

Even though they are not as versatile in shape as concrete, they can still be used to form various shapes and structures.

Other such materials used include steel, aluminum, and wood. All of these are used to form beams, space frames, etc, as they can withstand long pressure and stress conditions.

Additionally, they also form the frames of windows and doors where glass can be fitted. Glass is another material used in modern buildings, to form beautiful window panes and other decorations. 

Few very famous examples of Modern Buildings include the Farnsworth House by Mies van der, Barcelona Pavilion, David S. Ingalls Skating Rink in New Haven, and many more.

What are Traditional Building Materials?

These are the oldest material used in making buildings include mud, timber, straw, stones, and clay. These are the most known ones, mud is used to make bricks which are used in the same way as in modern buildings.

Stones are also used for the same purpose, especially in the older days, they were used to make the domestic hut and even pave roads. Timber and staw are another two materials used which are traditional in origins.

Straw was used to making sheds of houses, as they are lighter in weight, provides insulation, and easy to work with as well. Timber or wood was the best in making beams and the frames of old houses.

All these were locally available so that, there was no need for transportation and thus the buildings in a certain geographical area were much different than their counterparts. 

Some not so usual materials included slate, lead, copper, and even iron. Slate was used for roofing, paving, and construction of stairs.

Copper was used for roofing and decoration purposes as well in certain areas of Rome and Eastern Europe. Iron was used by the British as pinnacles, door straps, and even installed in chimneys. 

Main Differences Between Modern and Traditional Building Material 

  1. The materials were mostly locally sourced while traditional buildings were made. Modern buildings have materials sourced from all over the world.
  2. Modern building materials are more different and durable in design, as they are essentially an improvement on the traditional ones. 
  3. A lot of research and resources are directed to sustainability while working with modern materials, this was not the case with traditional materials.
  4. Traditional Material included timber, mud, clay, wood, and straw. Modern materials include concrete, bricks, steel, aluminum, and other similar stuff.
  5. A lot of the materials in modern buildings are concerted with the look along with the functionality of them. Traditional materials were more about the usage than feel.
  6. A lot of research is done in order to find the best form of materials so that they are strong and withstand a lot of stress and pressure. Traditional materials were often of poor quality. However, that is not always the case, the pyramids in Egypt have stood for thousands of years.
Difference Between Modern and Traditional Building Material


The materials used in buildings have evolved ever since human beings started making buildings. The traditional materials show how we used whatever we had, to make a building to protect us from the natural stresses.

The improvements made on the traditional ones resulted in modern materials in a certain way.

A lot of science and engineering is based on improving the materials and architecture of the buildings so that they are more durable and sturdy as well as fashionable. 

Reference :

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214509515300176 
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