Boston is piloting a line of solar-powered park benches that allow residents to take a seat, access the internet and charge their mobile devices while enjoying the city’s natural green spaces. The “sofa” benches are a great example of using public infrastructure to add quality of life to residents while reducing energy consumption.
The smart, solar-powered park benches are being piloted in several parks across Boston including Titus Sparrow Park, the Boston Common and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Reinventing the definition of a park bench, the public structures will include charging portals for mobile devices as well as wireless connectivity to the internet. Residents can charge their devices from the benches, while the city is able to upload location-based environmental information including air quality and noise-level data.
Cisco Systems is funding the pilot program in Boston, allowing the city to test the smart benches at no additional cost. Boston created a public-private partnership with the Streetscape Lab of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and Verizon to connect the benches to the internet.
Boston hopes the smart benches will incite interest in the city’s green spaces while enabling residents to stay connected as they explore. By supporting the use of mobile devices while at city parks, Boston officials aim to nurture a new shared social experience throughout the city.
Residents can not only avoid running out of power on their mobile devices while out and about, but are also encouraged to share their experiences and recommendations via social networks. The location-based data collected by the smart benches can be accessed by residents to help them decide where they want to venture to in the Boston parks.
While Boston is experimenting with interactive, energy-efficient public structures, Houston is developing a public park powered by the sun. In Houston’s fifth ward, a solar-powered splash pad is in the works to enhance a public park with energy efficient amenities. The city has installed 18 solar panels on top of metal canopies that house a water park below. The entire park will consumer zero energy, while the solar panels will generate 6,600 kilowatt hours annually.
The solar-powered water park will including attractions typical to a city water park, as well as educational components to introduce the process of harvesting solar power and the benefits of energy-efficient resources. The water park is operated through a central command unit placed underground. The solar energy derived from the panels fuels a water filtering system that maintains the streaming of clean, cool water. The park will be funded by Reliant energy company, which will use the space to explain the technology behind the energy-efficient project.
The demographics of Houston’s population is changing rapidly in many neighborhoods, specifically the fifth ward. City officials and Reliant representatives said the solar-powered water park will meet the needs of the growing number of young families in the area, while educating the population on the latest energy resources available to them to save money and reduce consumption.