Designing a Green Roof for Community Re-vitalization and Empowerment

Flint, Michigan

Featured image for the project, Designing a Green Roof for Community Re-vitalization and Empowerment


Once a hub for automobile manufacturing, Flint, Michigan has faced several environmental and economic hardships since the 1960s.  Situated 65 miles northwest of Detroit, the city is the fourth largest in the state of Michigan.   After General Motors downsized its workforce in the 1960s, the city lost half its population and sank into a deep economic depression.  Crime rates sky-rocketed and job opportunities diminished.  Most recently the city has battled a public health crisis involving drinking water contaminated by lead.  Despite its recent history, many initiatives are underway to revitalize Flints’ communities: socially, environmentally and economically.  The Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV) aims to do just this.  The organization’s vision is to transform Flint into a just and equitable city by investing in youth. Located in the former Dewey school building in Northern Flint, SBEV provides a 62,000 square foot space for the young people of Flint to “learn, earn, develop, lead, and invest in their individual development, as well as the development of their communities.”   Their building includes a 20,000 square foot roof, 60% of which is flat, with 40% on a slant.

Nearing 100 years old, the SBEV building is currently being renovated to increase the sustainability and energy efficiency of operations – and to better accommodate educational, training and job placement services for Flint’s youth.  Part of this upgrade will include the installation of Flint’s first green roof. While a basic function of the roof will be to achieve energy efficiency objectives, SBEV sees an opportunity to enhance the roof to reflect and embody their commitment to youth education, empowerment and sustainability.  They wish to create a green roof environment that local Flint residents can take pride in and consider a local asset, and that will inspire similar projects in the community.

This project has been conceived and designed in partnership with community leaders at SBEV. 


Maryum Rasool, Executive Director of the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (SBEV) and Sherrema Bower, Program Developer for SBEV, will serve as the community leads.

The community leads commit to engaging with the scientific partner on this project and providing strategic direction to ensure that the green roof plan is well integrated with SBEV’s programs and priorities.  In consultation with the scientific partner, the community leads will develop language and apply for funding opportunities to make the green roof a reality. 

Scientist Wanted

Maryum and Sherrema seek a scientific partner to help SBEV develop a green roof design that incorporates a community garden while showcasing native plants and reducing building energy consumption.  The roof would serve as a community citizen science laboratory and educational resource for SBEV youth.  He/she would also assist with grant writing to fund the installation of the green roof.

The scientist will also work with the community leaders to prepare for operation of the green roof, including the development of an operational plan for a citizen science project, and preparing the community leaders to successfully implement that plan once the roof is complete.

The community leaders are open to working with students.

TEX asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact that they can contribute to as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators.  This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.


Timeline and Outcome

Work will begin as soon as possible (July-August 2017), with an expected duration of six to eight months.

The input and recommendations of a scientist will result in a plan for a green roof that matches and embodies the SBEV vision and mission. The outputs of the project will include:

  • Design for a green roof featuring a community garden that showcases native plants
  • An operational plan for a citizen science program utilizing the green roof

The design plan will allow the community leaders to take the next step in applying for grant support to fund the installation of the green roof at SBEV.

Once complete, the community leaders envision that this project could have a transformative impact on youth engaged with SBEV and the wider community. It will be a source of pride for the community, as they will have the ability to access and engage with this amenity. As the first green roof in Flint, it will expose SBEV’s students to new sustainability and design concepts, as well as the value and process of citizen science.


Desired Skills and Expertise

  • Landscape design experience and/or familiarity with community gardens
  • Experience with energy-efficient building design and green roofs
  • Experience with teaching and/or the development of educational programs
  • Experience with citizen science research and project development
  • Ability to translate difficult science terminology to a lay audience
  • Experience with grant writing
  • Willingness to be present for meetings with funders to respond to scientific questions, and work with community leaders to prepare for engaging with funders
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach and engagement with youth empowerment and suitability initiatives
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Strong listening and communication skills
  • Competent and open to new ideas
  • Relaxed, easy going personality with a good sense of humor
  • The scientist should be able to visit the community in-person