Ann Arbor

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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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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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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Best of 2015: Architectstasy’s Top 6 Articles

2015 is a special year for Architectstasy, being its first.  It’s been a phenomenal year of architectural conversations; from the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial to Ann Arbor’s struggle with its version of the Roman Forum, the following were Architectstasy’s most-read articles of 2015.  Thanks for following along so far, and here’s to a new year of even more and more interesting conversations in 2016.  See you next year!

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Choose Your Own Adventure: Water Tanks

The City of Ann Arbor is refinishing the Manchester water tower at the split between Washtenaw and Stadium.  Best of all – they’re soliciting votes from city residents on the best design!  They’ve received 500 entries from local schoolchildren (and sundry other designers), and the jury panel has narrowed it down to five.  Now it’s up to Ann Arbor to select the next design for this prominent water tower.  Voting is open now through December 15th.  Vote now!

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Put a Little Song(bird) In My Heart

You know that feeling of pleasant surprise when someone who does something you love, does it well a second time?  When you see a movie sequel expecting shallow reproductions of the same jokes, and are instead presented with fresh new material that makes you laugh all over again; or a singer whose standout first album is followed up by a second with as much heart and originality; or an author whose first book is so strong you can’t imagine another one…until the next one comes out and you discover with shock that it’s just as un-put-downable as the first book?

A young patron places an order for something yummy.

A young patron places an order for something yummy.

Ann Arbor, you’re in for a treat.

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Ann Arbor’s Roman Forum: A Rundown of the Library Lot Proposals

Library Lot Proposals Schematic Design

clockwise from top left: The “Bar Louie”; The Glare; 5th Avenue; The Great Eight-Bit; Please Ignore

An alternate title to this article could have been, Let’s Think Like An Architecture Critic.

Okay, Ann Arbor. I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but we have a real opportunity to make a profound impact on the face and function of our city for a long time to come.  The so-called “Library Lot,” just north of the Downtown Library branch and just east of Blake Transit Center, is arguably the most central civic property in the city. The great and terrible news is: it’s up for development.

So, you know. No pressure.

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