Building Community Resiliency in Louisiana and Around the World

March 15, 2023

LSU Professor Nick Serrano and LSU students conduct design projects in Lake Charles

Nick Serrano, the Neil Odenwald Assistant Professor in the LSU College of Art & Design, conducts a design workshop on-site in Lake Charles for 45 LSU architecture, landscape architecture and civil engineering students.

– Photo: LSU

LSU helps strengthen Louisiana communities—building resiliency in areas that have been hit hard by storms and climate change including Lake Charles, where LSU President William F. Tate IV will meet with elected officials, local leaders and LSU experts today as part of the Scholarship First bus tour.

Through course instruction and mentoring, research and direct stakeholder engagement, LSU has several projects and initiatives to help build community resiliency. One example is LSU landscape architecture students recently visited Lake Charles and engaged in an intensive, hands-on workshop with LSU civil engineering students. Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter’s office, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana and the National Parks Service identified six specific sites along Contraband Bayou for the students to workshop. The Contraband Bayou project builds on the Just Imagine SWLA Resilience Master Plan and the Bayou Greenbelt initiative, while the Greinwich Terrace project is part of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative's land buyout program. All these courses expose students to complex conditions similar to what they can expect to find working in their future professions.

Another example is LSU architecture graduate students are currently working on a project entitled “Live Corridors: The Role of Architecture in Green Infrastructure” focused on Southwest Louisiana. The hands-on architectural studio class serves as an introduction to contextual building design in an urban setting with emphasis on site and context analysis and community planning in a collaborative working environment. The students’ work will support the natural environment by considering spaces to promote biodiversity; create spaces for cyclists; include spaces for food production that will engage local communities; and prioritize education-related programs, both formal and informal places for learning.

Working with community leaders and stakeholders

LSU students in Lake Charles

LSU students conduct an intensive, hands-on workshop in Lake Charles to design concepts to help improve hurricane resiliency.

– Photo: LSU

The LSU Coastal Ecosystem Design Studio teams up with Louisiana Sea Grant, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Community Development to host the Louisiana Community Resilience Institute, or LCRI, Elected Officials Workshop. LCRI is a collaborative effort that explores site-specific community project ideas with community leaders and subject matter experts.  Elected officials from Southwest Louisiana areas impacted by Hurricanes Laura and Delta attended the workshop held in October at the LSU Center for River Studies.

Recent participants included Beauregard Parish Police Jury Vice President Eddie Ware, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury Vice President Anthony Bartie, Jennings Mayor Henry Guinn, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter and Vinton Mayor Marcus Renfrow. During the workshop, each elected official presented a site-specific project idea in the hopes of obtaining constructive criticism from political peers and experts, recommendations for next steps and introductions to potential resources.

LCRI workshop ideas, energy and commitment don’t end when the workshop is over! LCRI workshop participants are introduced to resources on the last day of the workshop and again later when the Final Report is issued. LCRI participants have the unique opportunity to learn about and sometimes meet with potential project development and funding partners while also exploring ideas for refining and strengthening the foundational concept(s) of their projects, in preparation for next steps. 

Providing solutions, student innovation to stakeholders

LSU brings some of these project ideas into courses and design studios—like the ones previously mentioned-to conduct deeper study and to develop useful products. Products may include preliminary master plans, site or infrastructure designs or impressive visualizations including images informed by science, GIS and more.

Best practices enacted in LSU’s home state are critical and transferable to global communities facing similar challenges.

"Best practices enacted in LSU’s home state are critical and transferable to global communities facing similar challenges."

Traci Birch, LSU Coastal Ecosystem Design Studio associate director