Architecture and Vision's prototype water-harvesting hub and community center.
Architecture and Vision Architecture and Vision's prototype water-harvesting hub and community center.

Discourse in the field of architecture may center on the purpose and function of projects, but incremental improvements in the technology making up those structures are a deciding factor in how we build—from determining what’s feasible, to how quickly it’s accomplished, and at what cost. To keep track of those upgrades and innovations, we’re introducing a weekly rundown of the latest discoveries in materials and technology.

To kick off the series, we bring you energy-converting materials, wood–concrete tiles, a dynamic film for surfaces, and more:

  • The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says it will explore the development of materials that can convert energy from one form into another. Although the agency is targeting defense applications for the forthcoming technology, the materials' proposed thermoelectric and phase-changing properties could one day find applications in building systems. [DARPA]

  • The team at Italian studio Architecture and Vision has updated its water-harvester prototype (above), Warka Water, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its field testing. The goal is to provide communities in developing countries not only with water culled from moisture in the air but also with a place to gather and socialize. [Wired]

  • Gelpi Projects, a design studio in Miami Beach, Fla., used an invasive species of trees from the Florida Everglades as aggregate for insulating concrete tiles that it plans to use as cladding on a prototype house in Miami Beach. The studio says the material is 70 percent lighter than typical structural concrete while insulating better and absorbing more sound. According to the studio’s website, the project’s construction is slated to begin this year. [Gelpi Projects]

Gelpi Projects' wood-concrete tiles
Gelpi Projects Gelpi Projects' wood-concrete tiles
  • Housing developers in central Turkey have unearthed another underground city. Dating back approximately 5,000 years, the city is said to be larger than the numerous other below-grade ancient sites discovered in the region. Some of those previously charted zones, which are cavernous and naturally cooled, have been adapted for uses including commercial produce storage. [Inhabitat and The Guardian]

  • A prototype film from Billerica, Mass.–based E Ink could turn interior surfaces into color-changing displays. Debuting at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the film, which can clad walls, ceilings, and doors, offers potential uses spanning simple décor to wayfinding. [Gizmag]