Net Metering: AirBnB Meets Utilities

Net metering, or the billing mechanism by which individual and business owner renewable-energy generators may sell excess electricity back to the grid, is straightforward in concept, and yet it’s a political hot button in states across the country.  If we’re going to move into a new era of built environments acting in symbiosis with their natural counterparts, as groups like the International Living Futures hope, we as a species need to move towards a more agile, responsive, resilient infrastructure.  Yet the utilities we have in place right now represent monolithic and almost unfathomably large entities, essentially economic and resource monopolies.  So how do we evolve?

Here in Michigan, the next step in the legislative process are a series of bills currently under discussion in Lansing known collectively as the Michigan First Energy Policy.  These proposed measures (Senate Bills 437 & 438 and House Bills 4297 & 4298) address net metering as a broader effort to continue the renewable energy initiatives begun in 2008 and ending in 2015.

For additional information about net metering, you can check out these legislative resources:
– Washtenaw County Systems Planning
– Michigan Public Service Commission, and search “net metering”
– Energy Information Administration
– U.S. Department of Energy

You can also check out these utility and advocacy organizations:
– Ecology Center
– DTE Energy
– Clean Energy Coalition
– Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association
– Green Builder Media

And finally, to learn the most accurate and up-to-date information and to register your opinions with the folks who matter, I encourage you to contact your elected representatives.  For the Ann Arbor area, that’s these fine folks (with special gratitude to Sen. Warren for her generous assistance in preparing for this workshop):
– Sen. Rebekah Warren,
– Rep. Gretchen Driskell,
– Rep. Jeff Irwin,
– Rep. Adam Zemke,

Net metering is the focus of this month’s Building Matters Workshop.  For more information about these workshops and to put the next one on your calendar, check out Ann Arbor Architecture on Facebook.

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Reporting from the Front: The Architectural Imagination of Detroit

Last week, co-curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon gave a talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) on the evolving designs for the U.S. pavilion at Venice’s 2016 Architecture Biennale.  Despite being held on a snowy weekday evening in downtown Detroit, the large space was standing-room only, and if the lively conversation before and questions following the talk were any indication, nearly everyone in the room was actively engaged in learning about the process.

davidson and ponce de leon

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A new Ann Arbor tradition: Building Matters Workshops

Ann Arbor, a new tradition starts in March!

In the spirit of the Ann Arbor District Library’s mission to “promote the development of literate and informed citizens” through its collections and events, and Architectstasy‘s mission of bringing interesting and relevant architectural education deep into the community, Architectstasy presents its inaugural monthly Building Matters workshop.

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The surprisingly spatial quality of Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism

In a gently humorous interview with theologian/broadcaster Krista Tippett on the wildly popular podcast “On Being”, Buddhist teacher and author Stephen Batchelor explores the particular aspect of Buddhism that he practices, called secular, or atheist, Buddhism.  In it he delves into the issues and value of such practices as doubt, questioning, and transcendence.

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And the winner is…

The City of Ann Arbor is giving part of its infrastructure a facelift.

The Manchester Water Tower, visible from and just to the south of the Washtenaw-Stadium split, is getting an update.  Currently a bland industrial medium gray color, the city decided to have a little fun with its appearance.  Last summer, they invited students and artists to imagine new ways the water could look.  Hundreds of submissions poured in, and five months later, the county picked the five most popular and asked city residents to vote for the best one in a survey that they called “Art in the Sky.”

Manchester Water Tower designs

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Happy New Year, Detroit.

Detroit in December of 2016 is going to be a very different animal – in the world’s eyes – than it is in January of 2016.  What has actually been a transformation years – decades – more than a century in the making will look like an overnight personality change.  Detroit, currently better known for urban blight than urban innovation and violence than vibrant creativity, is being recognized on the world stage for its extraordinary contributions to and opportunity for revolutionary design.

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