As the federal government continues to curtail funding for affordable housing development nationwide, the city of Berkeley, California is moving to create its own cryptocurrency in an effort to potentially replace outlays for affordable housing from Washington with municipally-backed crypto-bonds. The so-called “crypto-impact” proposal is the brainchild of Berkeley city councilperson Ben Bartlett and Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguín, who have partnered with the University of California, Berkeley’s Blockchain Lab and municipal public financing firm Neighborly for the effort. The proposal would create a municipally-controlled blockchain system that would back bonds issued by the city to help fund affordable or supportive housing and other city services, CityLab reports. Explaining the need for the cryptocurrency, Bartlett told CityLab, “The federal government has committed itself to [tearing] us apart, to dividing people by race and gender. And through its fiscal policies, it’s taking away the ability for cities to fund [things like] affordable housing.” Bartlett’s response is to remove some amount of fiscal control away from the federal government and place it instead in the hands of like-minded private investors with digital money. If successful, Berkeley’s Initial Coin Offering (ICO) planned for later this year would make the city the first municipality in the country to enter the risky cryptocurrency sphere. The plan would allow investors to use blockchain—a digital, crowd-sourced ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—to purchase digital currency backed by city bonds. The program, according to Bartlett would augment municipal services and could potentially be used as a day-to-day currency by residents at some point in the future, as well. The effort comes amid the recently-passed, Republican-backed tax overhaul, which public accounting firm Novogradac & Company estimates could whittle the future production of affordable housing by close to 235,000 units over the next decade, Business Insider reports. The regressive tax bill would exacerbate the regional housing crisis that has overtaken Berkeley by putting a dent in the city’s ability to develop affordable housing. The new tax bill also comes amid growing—and concerning—threats on the part of the current administration to cut off federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities like Berkeley. Bartlett told Business Insider, "We have a jobs explosion and a super tight housing crunch. You're looking at a disaster. We thought we'd pull together the experts and find a way to finance [affordable housing] ourselves." Estimates for how much total funding or how many housing units overall could be created using the proposed cryptocurrency have not been released. It is also unclear if the municipality will change its restrictive zoning policies to make room for more housing units and better instrumentalize the new funding. The risky scheme could potentially play a role, however, in taking advantage of a recently-proposed state law that would loosen density, height, and parking requirements around transit in an effort to boost housing production in the state. The law—still in its draft form—could increase zoning capacity across California to the tune of millions of new housing units. A traditionally-financed $3 billion state-issued bond initiative is currently in the works, as well, as are various municipally-led housing bond initiatives. A committee dedicated to the cryptocurrency scheme is currently working to implement the city’s ICO by May of 2018.
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On November 2-4, ACADIA will host its annual conference at MIT. Ahead of the proceedings, The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) spoke with one of this year’s organizers, Skylar Tibbits, Assistant Professor of Design Research in MIT's Department of Architecture and director of the Self-Assembly Lab—to get a preview of what to expect from this year’s impressive lineup. AN: The theme of this year’s conference is Disciplines & Disruption. What are the prime disruptors you’ve identified and what types of research are you expecting to see? ST: If you asked this question in previous years, everyone’s attention was on robots. We had a robotics arms race for a moment and robotics has spun off into its own architectural conferences. The submissions this year are more about AI and Machine Learning, Visualization like AR/VR, and advances in HCI demonstrating the wealth and breadth of tools now available and the velocity of technological change. AN: The most disruptive thing is really the acceleration of technological change, is it not? ST: It’s a given that people participate in ACADIA for the latest and greatest research in technology for the architectural field and yet we are struck also by the context. Disruption isn’t about just rapid change in markets but about people, their contexts, and concerns and the feeling of cultural and technological shifts happening concurrently. AN: Can you speak more to these shifts and how you define disciplines in increasingly co-located and overlapping fields of research? ST: Disciplinary shifts look like convergence and hybridization. Boundaries between disciplines shrink and we ask what are the limits of the discipline today. Is ACADIA a Materials Science conference or a Computer Science Conference? Of course, the work comes out of architecture practice, but we need to ask those disciplinary questions in a bigger way. When everyone is a hybrid, you can get quite existential about what you are doing. We have a great line-up of keynotes from Neri Oxman and Thomas Heatherwick to Nervous Systems and Ben Fry that I think embody these hybrid practices. AN: What has changed in the course of ACADIA’s history? ACADIA started back when CAD was a novel idea and now every architecture student uses tools in really advanced ways. The technologies are now so ubiquitous and yet there is always room for innovation. The pressing questions become about testing the limits of the disciplines and how we can understand and elevate the social/cultural/political impacts while we innovate. AN: What makes hosting the conference at MIT special? The organizers and myself wanted to bring the MIT ethos to ACADIA. I want attendees to come away with a sense of the real MIT, not just that we are tight-knit group of techies, but that there are people here looking seriously at the big picture and developing hybrid research practices. ACADIA kicks off this weekend with a Hackathon at MIT Media Lab followed by three days of workshops at the newly opened Autodesk BUILD Sspace. The conference is happening at MIT November 2-4. Visit 2017.acadia.org
In 1849, Joseph Monier, a Frenchman, invented reinforced concrete. He didn't do much with it at the time, aside from making a few robust plant pots. Eighteen years later he finally showed off his radical technological innovation at the Paris Exposition of 1867. That year, Monier patented his creation and eight years and four more patents later, he designed the world's first iron-reinforced concrete bridge at the Castle of Chazelet. Thankfully today, the world is a great deal more connected than it was back in the 19th Century. Industry leaders can share their ideas instead of dithering around with flowerpots for decades. The Tech+ Expo is that forum. A hotbed of technological innovation, Tech+ is where you can find the latest advancements in virtual reality, rapid prototyping, smart materials, intelligent building systems, mobile apps, and software platforms. This year, The Architect’s Newspaper and Microsol Resources’ TechPerspectives have combined forces to present a full day program of industry leaders on the innovation stage at Tech+.Ten speakers will be presenting their thoughts and insight on various facets of technology and its role in architecture at Tech+ on May 23 in New York. A list of speakers can be found below:
- Keynote Presenter: Hao Ko, Principal at Gensler
- Zachary Aarons, Co-Founder MetaProp NYC
- Daniel Diez, EVP, Chief Marketing Officer, R/GA
- Cindy McLaughlin, CEO, Envelope
- Kerenza Harris, Morphosis Architects
- Jerrod Kennard, Architectural Designer at KPF
- Alexandra Pollock, Director of Design Technology at FXFOWLE
- Robert Otani, Principal at CORE Studio, Thornton Tomasetti
- Joseph Romano, VP Surveying & Mapping, Langan Engineering
- Jonathan Schwartz, Co-Founder + CPO Voodoo Manufacturing
- Zoltan Toth, BIM Implementation Consultant, GRAPHISOFT
- Luc Wilson, Associate Principal and Director at KPF Urban Interface
Listen to The Architect's Newspaper publisher and Facades+ conference director Diana Darling speak on the latest edition of Everything Building Envelope, a podcast that highlights the latest innovations in the building envelope industry. She discusses the company and its mission changes over the years, which includes the growth of the Facades+ program of conferences and editorial content. You can hear all about the events, who attends, and get up to date on where and when the next big things will be happening. She also gives a sneak peak of our latest project, the Tech+ Expo, a cutting-edge gathering of AEC industry experts and professionals that focuses on how technology is changing how we make and experience our built environment. Check out the latest episode with Diana Darling here.
With an iPhone app already proffering the city that never was, how about the one that is, or is about to be? That is the charming task of Designnear. (That's design-near, not design-ear.) From the fine folks at Hopnear, which also has a cool Artnear app, too, Designnear maps out nearby contemporary buildings of interest, replete with lots of cool photos and renderings and vital info. And forget where that cool, new project you just read about in The Architect's Newspaper is? There's a search, function, too, that'll map it out and let you find it. Better yet, anyone can log-on and submit their own projects—that's you, up-and-coming architect—hopefull leading to a comprehensive iPhone catalog of all the city's nifty buildings. UPDATE: A Hopnear rep emailed us to say that Designnear now has landmarks listed for most U.S. cities, and they're poised for a roll out in Asia and Europe.