Some facilities are experimenting with rainwater catchment systems, which capture rainwater and divert it for other uses such as landscape irrigation. “Metal roof panels are extremely efficient at channeling water to where you want it to go,” says Wes Brooker, marketing development manager for American Buildings Co. in Eufaula, Ala. “Self-storage buildings can be designed with commercial-size gutters and downspouts to move water into either holding ponds or even underground tanks.”
Bill Markson found another way to capture water and turn it into power. Without access to a natural gas source, he was forced to get creative when building Lakeville (Mass.) Self Storage. Although he wanted to add climate control to a portion of the facility’s 206 units, costly propane was his only choice. So Markson began looking for an alternative. In his research, he stumbled upon geothermal heating and cooling. “The cost of the heat pumps is comparable to that of an electric-operated air conditioner,” he says. “The additional expense is the piping.”
Once Markson’s development team determined the property’s well would yield plenty of water to sustain the system, Markson decided to give it a go. The geothermal system covers four storage buildings plus the office. Each building has a four-ton heat pump that will heat or cool. Water is piped from the well to the building, and then piped to a discharge well. Best of all, the system has the capacity to expand.
Markson was able to claim tax credits, which reduced the overall cost of the system. The facility’s only utility bill is electricity, which rarely exceeds $100 a month. Markson markets the geothermal system on the facility’s website and explains how it works to prospective tenants. “Some people are very interested in it. They’re pleased they’re participating in something that’s green."
It’s hard to put a price tag on conservation. While there are typically higher upfront costs, the long-term savings can be easily measured. “On a business level, green is indeed good,” Sitt declares. “What we've found is that green produces more green—the more business you do because you're green, the more green things you can afford to do, and it continues like that. So business and green go together today.”
While it may be hard to make the commitment, Sitt advises self-storage professionals to take baby steps. He suggests setting up a recycling area or switching to eco-friendly cleaners. Look for energy-saving products, including for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and high-efficient heating and cooling units. “We're still building on it all at iStoreGreen,” he says. “The green initiatives never really stop, there's always something else to do.”
You should also market your green products and services to current tenants and prospects. “Every time I run an ad, it’s part of it,” says Jansheski, who also gives every customer a pamphlet outlining Bellam’s green products and services. The facility’s website includes the Bay Area Certified Green Business logo. Markson and Moita also market their green initiatives on their websites. Sitt takes it a step further, giving each customer a reusable tote bag, a CFL light bulb, and information about conserving and recycling.
Because there’s such a high demand for green products and services, there’s a ready-made market for storage operators. “We see everything from customers moving their stuff to us from far distances because we are the only green storage facility in the area, to customers who don't think about the green aspect until they come in and see all that we've done, and then feel even better about storing here,” Sitt says. “It gives them a sense of satisfaction, knowing they are helping the planet, and everyone wants to help the planet.”