How Long Do Modern Buildings Last?

Published Categorized as Construction
Modern Buildings

Architects, engineers, and contractors are responsible for designing and building homes, offices, schools, and other critical everyday structures that we depend on for daily life. With new construction, one question that comes to mind is how long do modern buildings last?

Modern buildings are built to last up to 100 or more years, depending on the building’s style, materials, and intended use. Some modern facilities are only expected to last 50 years or less, and in rare circumstances, structures have developed problems in as little as a few years.

This article will explain what factors contribute to the lifespan of a building, including the best materials to build with, certain geographical factors that can influence the longevity of a building, and advice on how buildings can last the longest.

The Best Materials To Construct a Long-Lasting Building

The best materials to construct buildings depend on the desired style and function. Whether you are building a single-family home, office, or skyscraper determines all of the materials that you may use for construction. The two most common construction types are conventional and modernist. Materials used include the following:

  • Masonry
  • Metals
  • Concrete
  • Glass

Conventional Buildings

Conventional buildings are made from a variety of materials. Depending on the type of building, these materials can be used in combination or by themselves. Conventional construction is commonly used for homes and offices. The most common types of materials for conventional structures include:

  • Brick
  • Stone
  • Metals


Brick is an excellent material for building longevity. Here are some of the advantages of using brick:

  • Brick is fairly weather resistant. It does particularly well in warm weather, but stores heat long enough to be efficient in the winter months as well.
  • Brick generally lasts for over 100 years. It’s one of the longest-lasting materials you can use to construct modern buildings.


Stone is another material used to make buildings that stand the test of time. Stone buildings often last a century, if not multiple centuries, without needing to be replaced. There are plenty of conventional buildings that still use stone. However, cheaper alternatives in modern construction are often replacing them.


Metals are found in many conventional buildings. There are some metals that are used to make buildings that last up to a century as well. Buildings made with iron are often thought to last over 100 years. Iron is more expensive to produce than brick or stone, but it tends to last just as long.

Modernist Buildings

Since the early 1900s, Modernism has been the dominant form of construction for new buildings. Modernist buildings are built to last, but their materials tend not to last as long as conventional structures.

While the materials used in Modernist buildings are durable, they’ll often need repairs or reinforcement in about half the time that conventional buildings do. Typically buildings that use modernist design and materials need repairs done after only 50 or 60 years.

They need repairs quickly because one of the primary materials being used is concrete, which has plenty of issues of its own. Glass and metals can present some challenges as well when compared to the more durable steel and iron.

The materials most commonly used for these buildings are:

  • Concrete
  • Glass
  • Metals


Concrete buildings usually last between 50 and 100 years. As long as high-quality concrete is chosen, modernist buildings made with concrete should stand the test of time. Some things to consider when selecting a quality concrete include:

  • The ingredients used in the concrete mix.
  • The date that the concrete mix was made.
  • How weather resistant the ingredients are.


Glass is an essential part of modernist buildings and often has a life of over 50 years. Glass can be an excellent choice for buildings as long as the architectural drawings and construction are done with the utmost care. Glass has lower maintenance costs than other materials, but it doesn’t tend to withstand natural elements such as earthquakes.


Steel is the most prevalent metal used in modernist design. Buildings made with steel should easily last more than 50 years with suitable construction and care. Proper structure and quality of metals chosen are critical to a building lasting a long time when built with steel.

Wood in Modern Construction

Another good construction material that has found a resurgence in recent years is wood or timber. According to Smithsonian Magazine, timber has become increasingly popular in modern construction over the last decade. Wood has several benefits when used in construction, but how long does it last as a primary material in buildings?

According to the USDA, buildings made from wood can last for centuries with the proper construction and maintenance afterward. Wood is long-lasting and durable as long as certain outside elements don’t interfere. The best wood used in modern buildings includes:

  • Cedar
  • Bamboo
  • Douglas Fir
  • Oak

These various types of wood can be used to construct floors, ceilings, beams, and other critical structural components. The advantage of using wood is that it requires more minor repairs and lasts longer than alternatives like MDF or vinyl over a long time period.

What Are the Worst Materials To Construct a Building With for Longevity?

Making buildings that last a long time is ideal if you have the budget, but it’s expensive, and not everyone can choose the best materials for their buildings. Some buildings use materials that are not ideal for longevity. So, what materials do people use to create structures that do not last long?

The worst materials to construct a building with for longevity are damaged or rusted materials. Using inferior or damaged products is a mistake you should not make in construction. Employing defective materials to save money in the short term can cost you decades of the lifespan of your structure.

Some materials that will not last long that are commonly used for some modern building construction include the following:

  • Poorly mixed concrete
  • Previously damaged wood
  • Previously rusted metals

Environmental Factors That Influence How Long a Building Lasts

Regardless of how well a building is built and what materials it’s made from, various environmental factors can influence how long a building lasts. The most common factors that influence how long a building lasts include:

Water Damage

Water damage is a common culprit for buildings not lasting as long as they should. It is essential to take preventative measures regardless of what material you use when constructing a home, office, or another facility. There are ways to make your building last longer depending on what type of material you use for construction:

When using concrete to construct a building, it’s crucial to consider a few water-related issues that impact how long a building lasts. Some of these issues include:

  • Pay attention to the humidity when you are mixing the concrete. Mixing concrete on days with high humidity will increase the water content in the mix, which is not ideal. The excess water makes the concrete weaker over time. The resulting weakness of the concrete can directly impact how long it lasts and lead to cracking and other issues.
  • Allow enough time for the concrete to dry properly. Concrete needs the right amount of time to set, so that excess moisture doesn’t weaken the overall structure or lead to fungal or bacterial growth. Not allowing the right amount of time to dry can lead to the same issues like cracking and weakening the concrete structure.
  • Water can impact how long buildings made from wood can last. Water damage can be a problem for longevity in buildings constructed from wood. Wooden structures can rot or mold over time if you don’t take the proper preventative measures. The rotting of wood can make it much weaker, leading to unsafe conditions in a short period of time.

Luckily, wood is easy to dry, and there are simple preventative measures that you can take both during construction and later on to increase the lifespan of buildings made from wood. Take care to use undamaged wood during construction and make sure to dry the wood if it gets wet later after the building is already built. You can also use products on the timber that will prevent future water damage.


Another critical thing to consider when constructing a building to last a long time is insects and mold. Mold can develop during construction or later on, and it’s essential to take proper care during construction so that you are not using damaged materials in construction.

Mold can occur quickly, and it can spread extremely fast. According to the CDC, the health effects of mold are widespread and happen in buildings that have been impacted by excessive water damage. When considering how long a building will last, it’s imperative to prevent mold as it can make a building unsafe to live in.

Here are some ways to prevent mold:

  • Designing the building so that there are no outside leaks or cracks.
  • Choosing suitable construction materials.
  • Taking preventative steps to keep them dry.

If these steps are taken, a building should last much longer than if it was exposed to mold. Bear this in mind when considering how mold can affect the lifespan of a building.

Insects and Pests

Another reason a building might not last as long is insects or pests. Several different common culprits may be impacting how long your building can last. These pests include:

  • Termites
  • Rodents
  • Ants


Termites are the most infamous vandal in home construction. The reason they’re so notorious is that termites love to eat wood. While wood is a great building material for both houses and office buildings, termites are a factor that can dramatically decrease how long a building lasts. Make sure to contact pest control at any sign of these divisive bugs.


Rodents like rats and mice are a nightmare for buildings, including single-family homes, apartments, and even skyscrapers. They are problematic because they chew through walls and electrical wires and can cause residents structural damage and potential disease. Mice and rats can cause deterioration to buildings in as little as a decade or less if an infestation occurs.


Another common culprit for reducing the lifespan of houses, offices, and apartment buildings is ants. They tend to be drawn to wood, like termites, and make their homes here. They can also cause major electrical issues because they live in wires and can cause extensive damage to homes and buildings through electrical problems.

Natural Disasters and Climate

Another thing that impacts how long modern buildings last are natural disasters. There’s nothing you can do to prevent a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or another natural disaster. Still, keep in mind some things that could make your building last longer if one of these unfortunate instances occurs.

Different regions require different materials to make buildings that will last the longest depending on the type of natural disaster:

  • In places with earthquakes, you should avoid building with bricks. The way brick is held together is generally not considered safe for areas that get frequent earthquakes. It’s not considered a safe option because it’s connected by a mortar that is not strong enough to endure the moving and shaking that happens from an earthquake.
  • Choose the proper construction materials if you are building in a humid climate. The structural components, paint, siding, and other materials can impact how long a building lasts in humid climates. Be sure to pick out suitable materials if you live in an area with high humidity.
  • In a region that experiences a lot of tornadoes, it’s essential to construct your home in a manner that could survive the impact of these deadly events. You can take steps and materials that you can use during construction that can make a building last longer during a tornado.

Final Thoughts

Modern buildings generally last between 50 and 100 years, depending on various factors. They can last much longer than this without any issues if proper care is given to construct and maintain the structures.

Buildings that run into issues before this timeframe can still last longer, but steps may need to be taken to continue the life of the building.

The best materials that you can use for longevity include quality woods, concrete mixes, and metals such as iron or steel. Choose quality materials and use care to promote a longer life for a building.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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