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Solar benches facilitate outdoor learning

- Wits University

Benches hardly spark conversations but the new benches on campus are hitting the right notes with students.

Sola powered benches bring convenience to students

New solar benches have been added to the outdoor furniture at the Braamfontein campuses. These innovative benches, equipped with solar panels, are part of the initiative to transform into a greener University while simultaneously catering to the evolving needs of students by providing tech-savvy infrastructure that advances learning and teaching.

Many students hold group discussions outside the classroom and require access to reliable power supply for learning devices. Furthermore, outdoor collaborative spaces are becoming essential as people seek to find ways to break away from concrete environments.

The new additions, which are part of a pilot project, are a welcomed relief in the midst of loadshedding.

With a 4800-watt-hour battery capability, a single solar charge to the benches can power a standard 65W laptops for up to nine days, a useful feature for overcast days and winter months where sun power is reduced. At night, these structures can easily be spotted by the automatic lights making them easy to find.

This initiative is a result of efforts that began in 2023 and adds to the many progressive developments to increase sustainability and the efficient use of resources, led by the Systems and Operations Division.

Operations Manager of the Grounds and Waste Unit within the Systems and Operations Division Chris Ziyambi says the benches are another demonstration of how the Division is contributing to the global Sustainable Development Goals and academic success in line with Institutional scorecard. “Aside from it’s utility function, the less obvious benefit is linked to student wellness. Being outdoors promotes mental health and by providing more outdoor learning facilities we are ensuring that students enjoy the sun, blue skies and the beautiful well-maintained environment around us,” says Ziyambi.

Currently, the solar benches are located on the East and West Braamfontein campuses and will be extended to the Parktown campuses. Wits is committed to playing a transformative leadership role in a just and equitable transition to a net zero-carbon economy. Its commitment is expressed in the Wits Sustainability Strategy developed in 2023 and targets six areas for meaningful impact. These include teaching and learning, energy, water, waste, transport, procurement and infrastructure.