Modern architecture is instantly recognizable from traditional architecture thanks to its differing design features. In the past, cultural and historical influences made more of an impact on surrounding buildings than it does now in this multicultural global society. But what are the other differences between them?

These are the 6 key differences between traditional vs modern architecture.

Use of Technology

Modern architecture differs from traditional architecture in its widespread use of innovative and emerging technologies. While it’s true that 3D rendering pricing exceeds that of 

traditional methods like paper blueprints, the advantages far outweigh this drawback. 

Of course, when more traditional architectural styles were in their heyday, they, too, were seen as innovative. This is the dynamic nature of technological progress. One day the architectural practices that we see today will themselves be viewed as archaic. 

That aside, there is no doubt that modern architects focus on the available technology of the day slightly more than their predecessors. This is largely due to the internet. In the past, it took time and travel for architects to know about developments across the oceans. Today’s latest trends are a few clicks away.

Energy Efficiency

A lot more attention is paid to energy efficiency in today’s modern architecture than in the traditional architecture of the past. This has led to greater comfort at home and in the workplace. For example, even though there are many pros, one of the cons of working or living in Atlanta is the hot summer weather!

Far from accepting the fate that the climate doles out, and relying solely on air conditioning, modern architecture takes energy efficiency into account from the very start. This was not the case in the past when appeal won out over practicality and efficiency.  

Building orientation, materials used for the building envelope, and even the style and shape of a structure affect its energy efficiency. By looking at the flaws in buildings of the past, we have learned the way forward. We now know how energy efficiency can be worked into the very architecture of any structure. 


Versatility is a feature of architecture that doesn’t often get addressed. How can a building be versatile?  This can be best explained by looking at adaptive reuse, the reimagining and repurposing of older buildings. 

Although not designed for reuse, their spacious dimensions and solid construction helped derelict buildings come back to life sometimes many years after abandonment. A classic example of this is the Ford Factory Lofts in Atlanta Georgia. 

Originally designed and built to be a Ford automobile assembly plant, it was later redesigned and converted into a mixed-use residential and commercial space. There are many examples of adaptive reuse throughout the US and the world. 

Today’s modern architecture does not always lend itself well to such re-use. Although sustainably built with the latest technologies, their distinctive designs will probably not translate well into other uses.


More and more architects are focusing on environmentally-friendly strategies. Unfortunately, traditional architecture was often made possible through the use of building and insulation materials we now know to be toxic. Thankfully, we now know how to avoid them!

There are many ways to approach environmentally friendly architecture and construction. But carbon-neutral alternative materials and more efficient insulation materials are the most common ways this issue is addressed. 

Interestingly, although eco-friendliness was not a buzzword back then, traditional architecture was more eco-friendly than you’d think. Based mostly on locally sourced wood, these structures were more than just aesthetically pleasing. Wood is also the ultimate carbon-neutral material. 

Cost Efficiency

Cost efficiency is another difference between traditional and modern architecture. In years gone by, it was easier to use natural, locally sourced raw materials for building. Traditional architecture reflected this practice, with designs that primarily centered around the lumber industry.

Modern architecture has seen a shift to materials like steel and glass. These structures are not nearly as cost-efficient as wooden ones. 

Wood is still prized as a beautiful and eco-friendly material. However, wood is just not as durable long-term, requiring costly maintenance and renovation over time. With construction companies focusing more on their profit margins, cost efficiency is more relevant now than in days of old. 


Whereas the architects of yesteryear focused on the appeal of their designs, modern architects place more emphasis on sustainability. Practicing sustainability is key if our society is to survive and thrive. This is just as true for our architecture, as we can see in most modern urban developments.

Homes are now almost always designed and built to take advantage of natural light, shade, and thermal mass. The use of solar energy, along with other renewable and natural energy sources, is also on the rise. Everything from residential developments to office buildings is now designed with infrastructure in place for alternative energies. 

This was not a factor in traditional architecture, as many alternative energy sources were as yet unknown or not fully understood. With mounting pressure from environmental bodies, modern architecture has had to adapt to a new way of thinking.