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Planting a Sustainable Future in Bahrain

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NSA BAHRAIN, Bahrain – Lush vegetation, gorgeous green landscaping, and seasonal flowers are not things you expect to find in a country that’s 92 percent desert. But KBR landscaping supervisor Victoria Alcoy and her team are transforming sandy desert areas into an inviting, green campus at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain. NSA Bahrain is home to thousands of joint military and coalition forces and a frequent stop for high-ranking government officials. As part of the base operations support contract, KBR maintains the grounds and provides landscaping for 152 acres. So, how does KBR achieve this feat while adhering to its corporate sustainability and Zero Harm goals?

Sustainability is a significant focus for Alcoy and her team in Bahrain. The landscaping and grounds maintenance task is large, with 27 full-time employees. Alcoy and grounds supervisor Mohammed Bhuiyan lead a multicultural team, comprised mostly of employees from Bangladesh and the Philippines who are experienced horticulturists. The team propagates new life into the scenery of NSA Bahrain through techniques such as cloning, cuttings, and seedlings. By planting vegetation, the root systems prevent erosion and provide a wide variety of plants that beautify the sidewalks of NSA Bahrain.

“We love what we do because we feel we are not landscapers but architects…flower architects. We want the U.S. Sailors who not only live but also visit here to feel they are living in a botanical garden,” said Alcoy.

To answer the obvious question about landscaping in the desert: where does the water come from? The plants and trees are irrigated using rejected water from the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU). Humans can’t consume the rejected water, but Alcoy and her team use recycled water to ensure trees and plant life thrive during mild winters and especially sweltering hot summers. The team understands what a precious resource water is, especially in a desert environment, so they efficiently maximize the use of all existing water sources.

KBR has been on contract in Bahrain since December 2017. While some of the flower beds had been established before, most had fallen into disrepair. Alcoy’s team brought new life to existing beds and created new ones from barren soil. The team embodies the “reduce, reuse and recycle” mantra of sustainability. They salvage bricks from the installation’s construction projects to create new landscaping borders and pathways around the campus-like setting.

The team uses a small nursery to produce all the plants for NSA Bahrain. The horticulturists collect seeds from existing plants, including cuttings and trimmings that would normally be discarded as waste in other landscaping operations. Alcoy oversees an impressive process of rooting and growing seeds and cuttings to a size suitable for planting throughout NSA Bahrain. These practices are not only great for the environment, but it also saves taxpayer money by reducing expenditures on plants.

An example of the savings is a two-day project that saved $653 by using propagated plants from the nursery rather than retail plants purchased from the local economy. That adds up to thousands of dollars saved per month and massive savings throughout the life of the contract.

While the aesthetic fruits of this labor are apparent, what is more impressive is that this team works year-round in all weather conditions, including temperatures over 110 degrees and in humidity hovering at 85 percent. In addition to the relentless heat, the team uses sophisticated watering systems, powered equipment, and works at tall heights. Yet they have had zero accidents or injuries in 1,744 consecutive days, revealing their deep commitment to Zero Harm.

Walking through the lush, green campus at NSA Bahrain, you know the landscaping team loves horticulture. However, Alcoy’s magic touch goes beyond a green thumb. She and her team treat each seed and cutting as a precious resource that Earth gifted us to enjoy, and they take their responsibility seriously to protect and grow those gifts. They embody KBR values of sustainability while delivering exceptional results for our customers to enjoy an oasis in the desert.

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