Groundwork New Orleans Solar-Charging Bench

Summer 2017 Public Interest Design Fellows worked with Groundwork New Orleans to design and build a prototype of a solar-charging bus stop in the Lower Ninth ward.

Project Dates

June 2017–July 2017


As a low-lying coastal city in a hurricane zone New Orleans’ infrastructure is vulnerable and its citizens are in need of more nimble, green, and independent power sources for communicating after a disaster. In addition, there are socioeconomic disparities in the city that programs such as Groundwork NOLA have stepped in to provide youth with job skills and career paths.  The Groundwork team saw an opportunity to provide access to free and clean energy as part of a daily commute while also introducing green technology and innovative design career paths to their program’s youth.

Small Center Engagement

Small Center collaborated with Groundwork New Orleans staff and their Green Team members to design and build a Solar Bench prototype. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded Groundwork New Orleans a grant to construct three prototypical Solar Bench demonstration projects as part of an initiative to help communities build resiliency through clean energy. The project focused on teaching students to design, build, and install solar-powered phone charging benches on or near bus stops in underserved communities. The benches provide clean energy sources for public transportation users, educate community members, and provide an emergency neighborhood power source.

Partner Organization

Groundwork New Orleans works to improve water management, water quality, and neighborhood access to natural amenities in the city of New Orleans. The mission of Groundwork New Orleans is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement, and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships that empower people, businesses, and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being.


Fellows designed and built a prototype bench at N. Prieur and Caffin to educate residents about clean energy, and provide an emergency power source within the community. The Groundwork New Orleans Green Team will use this bench as a prototype for designing and building solar charging benches across the city.


Groundwork New Orleans

  • Alicia Neal
  • Marcus Murrell
  • Rami Diaz
  • Jenny Snape
  • Groundwork New Orleans Green Team

Team Members

Project Lead

  • Emilie Taylor Welty (Design Lead)


  • Ana Sandoval Aguilar
  • Kekeli Dawes
  • Carolyn Isaacson
  • Christie Melgar
  • Ryan Shabaan
  • Kelsey Willis


  • Shoshana Gordon
  • Maggie Hansen
  • Nick Jenisch
  • Sue Mobley
  • Donn Peabody


  • Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Morris Adjmi
  • The Sizeler Family

Special Thanks

  • Batture Engineering
  • The Blind Pelican