Business

Lexington business shows how to manage water runoff while showcasing beautiful improvements

Roscoe Klausing of the Klausing Group has committed his landscaping company to innovative stormwater management, including a vegetated roof at his company's facility near McConnell Springs.
Roscoe Klausing of the Klausing Group has committed his landscaping company to innovative stormwater management, including a vegetated roof at his company's facility near McConnell Springs. Lexington Herald-Leader

Pull up to the offices of Klausing Group, Roscoe Klausing's landscape company in an industrial park near McConnell Springs.

See anything different?

The business has made itself a model of adopting a green infrastructure, meaning it uses vegetation, soil and natural processes to capture rainfall and minimize runoff from rooftops and ground surfaces.

The commitment to making changes that help drain stormwater-soaked Lexington helped Klausing's company win a $300,000 stormwater quality incentive city grant in 2010 that has funded its innovations. It also helped win the company, which has 65 employees and offices in Lexington and Louisville, three recent Environmental Improvement Awards awarded annually by the Lexington Environmental Commission.

Jim Rebmann, senior environmental planner with Lexington's Urban County Government, said the annual awards "educate our people to know that these large companies and small companies and neighborhood groups are out there doing things for the community."

In 2011, Lexington arrived at a settlement — called a consent decree — that resolved a lawsuit the federal Environmental Protection Agency filed against the city over storm-sewer systems.

But not all of Lexington's stormwater improvements have been in storm-sewer and sanitary-sewer improvements: Some can also be simpler, citizen-friendly projects such as rain gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavers.

"The city has a real interest in using these sites as showcase pieces," Klausing said.

Look up from the front parking lot at Klausing's and you'll see there's a vegetated roof. Literally. There's a garden with about eight inches of dirt on a roof. Vegetated roofs are somewhat rare in Lexington, but you can also find them at locations including the Lyric Theatre and a Lextran bus stop on Euclid.

Klausing is particularly proud of it.

"Most roofs serve no function other than to shed water," he said. "We've tried to play with different textures and colors."

Building a roof that actually absorbed water and gave back daily visual interest was a novel experience, he said.

Now, look down. There's a permeable concrete paver system, beneath which lies a subgrade with underdrain pipe that slows down runoff during peak rainfall.

"I have never seen water come off of this lot," Klausing said.

Around the corner you'll find a rain garden and monarch way station — described by Klausing in its pre-renovated state as "a typical detention basin" — where excess water that is not absorbed by plants and trees is filtered before it percolates into the ground or sub-drainage system.

Just as the company finished planting perennials for the monarch waystation, the first monarch flew in, Klausing said.

The rain garden also includes bald cypress trees and decorative driftwood.

In the back parking lot you'll see two giant empty tanks on a reinforced platform: They are targeted for eventual use in collecting rainwater, which will then be pumped onto Klausing trucks and used in landscape jobs. Think of them as giant rainbarrels.

Klausing Lawn & Landscape — now the Klausing Group at Klausinggroup.com — started in 1992 when brothers Brook and Roscoe Klausing decided to start a lawn mowing business to raise money for a car.

It won the Small Business of the Year award, presented by Commerce Lexington, in 2004.

Brook is no longer with the Lexington company. He moved on to New York, where he is a landscaper and model (see his work at Brooklandscape.com).

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