courtesy University of Tokyo

Researchers from the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science have given pulverized fruit peels and cabbage leaves a new lease on life by turning them into construction materials. Hoping to find a use for household and industrial food waste—which accounts for billions of pounds of refuse each year—the researchers pulverized different vacuum-dried fruit and vegetable scraps. They then mixed the resulting powder with water and seasonings before heat-pressing the mixture into molds. The researchers tested the bending and compression properties of the finished material, finding that, with the exception of the pumpkin peel–based materials, each mixture exceeded expectations. "We also found that Chinese cabbage leaves, which produced a material over three times stronger than concrete, could be mixed with the weaker pumpkin-based material to provide effective reinforcement," said senior collaborator Kota Machida in a university press release. [University of Tokyo]

In more concrete news, Amesbury, England–based construction firm Nationwide Engineering has partnered with the University of Manchester to develop a graphene-enhanced "concretene." Given that cement production is responsible for nearly 8% of global carbon emissions, researchers investigated methods that might strengthen the finished concrete product, ultimately requiring less of the building material. They turned to graphene, a material that comprises only one layer of carbon atoms, adding small amounts of the material to their concrete mix. The resulting concrete was approximately 30% stronger than standard RC30 concrete, "meaning significantly less [cement] is needed to achieve the equivalent structural performance," according to a university press release. [University of Manchester]

Roger Cummings

Amid uncertain times, James Garrett Jr., AIA, founding partner of the St. Paul, Minn.–based firm 4RM+ULA, turns to philosophy for guidance. In his opinion piece, Garrett explains how the discipline can be both a "basis and catalyst for creative thought" that underscores the vital work of architects. [ARCHITECT]

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy pointed out that Americans flushing and washing gallons of hot water down the drain every day are generating an untapped energy source. Now, Denver hopes to realize wastewater heat recovery by constructing what could be the largest sewer heat-recovery project in North America. NPR dives into the $1 billion sewer remodel and how the change could shape how we heat and cool buildings around the country. [NPR]

courtesy The World Meteorological Organization

The World Meteorological Organization has updated its climate forecast to predict that the chance of Earth's annual average global temperature exceeding the 1.5°C warming threshold in at least one of the next five years is 40%. The likelihood of at least one of these years breaking the 2016 record to become the hottest year on record is 90%. “These are more than just statistics,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas in a press release from the organization. “Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather, and greater impacts on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development." [World Meteorological Organization]

Courtesy Architecture Research Office

For 49 years after its original construction, the skylight in Houston's Rothko Chapel let too much light into the gallery space. But, by the time its 50th anniversary rolled around, New York–based Architecture Research Office and the Washington, D.C.–based lighting design firm George Sexton Associates had completely redesigned the skylight and realized the vision of the chapel's namesake artist, the late Mark Rothko. ARCHITECT contributor Gideon Fink Shapiro dives into the skylight's redesign, detailing how the firms honor the artwork inside while maintaining a connection with the outside world. [ARCHITECT]

Bill Timmerman

The American Institute of Architects named Burton Barr Phoenix Central Library by Will Bruder Architects and DWL Architects + Planners as the recipient of its 2021 Twenty-Five Year Award, honoring the project as "a building that has set a precedent for the last 25-35 years and continues to set standards of excellence for its architectural design and significance." In his latest column, Aaron Betsky explains why the library deserves this honor and remains a "marvel to behold." [ARCHITECT]