When Brian Kaiser responded to a “help wanted” ad in the local newspaper 25 years ago, he didn’t realize that he would eventually help save 40 million gallons of water per year. Raised on a farm in the Midwest, he just wanted a career where he could work outdoors with plants and have his hands in the soil. Koch Industries was looking for someone to develop and maintain 28 acres of landscaping at its expanding global headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. Brian seized the opportunity, and today he is the grounds supervisor who is now responsible for 100 acres of maintained property.
Koch’s recently expanded grounds now include a 20-million-gallon retention pond that Brian had a key role in recommending. Its dimensions hold a special significance. “We oversized the pond to meet our irrigation needs,” explained Brian. “Our new building project was a perfect opportunity to keep improving environmental efficiency.”
Recent construction at Koch has made it possible for rain to flow from parking lots, rooftops and sump pumps to the new pond. Condensation from around the facility is also collected to help replenish the irrigation supply. In a community looking at future growth opportunities, this means an estimated 40 million gallons of water will now be available for other purposes each year. That is enough annual water for approximately 400 households.
“Koch has a lot of green space around its buildings,” noted Brian. “We planted 1,500 trees as part of our new expansion. There’s buffalo grass on several acres that thrives on fewer resources. We also added native grasses, like what you’d see on the Kansas prairie, to some parts of the property. Those sections of grass don’t require mowing or irrigation.”
When asked about other ways that Koch is responsibly caring for its campus, Brian can offer plenty of examples. He points out that his team does not apply blanket treatments of herbicides or insecticides. They also recycle nearly 100 percent of their landscape debris, as well as organic waste from the cafeteria, to create compost and mulch. According to Brian, the company started using fertilizers from one of its own businesses a few years ago, getting the same results with 25 percent less product through improved technology.
“These investments fit into the culture at Koch,” he explained. “Our companies create things that people want, while respecting the environment. This is what I enjoy doing. It doesn’t seem like a job, because it’s extremely fulfilling. I feel like I’m part of people’s first impression of Koch. When we do things right, it really shows.”