Green in Action: Northgate Self Storage in Colorado Springs Achieves LEED Certification and Much More

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Meeting LEED Credits

In many ways, Northgate Self Storage is like other new developments. The 675-unit capitalizes on the multi-story trend in the industry with four stories. It also has climate-controlled units, a video-surveillance system, keypad-controlled access and elevators.

One factor that’s notably different, however, is all components of the development—exterior and interior—will earn LEED credit and will contribute to the structure’s LEED-certification with a gold rating. “There are several credits that tie in perfectly with self-storage,” Fredrick points out. For example, Materials and Resources Credit 4 pertains to recycled content of construction materials. “Most steel in self-storage structure and doors contain high-recycled content,” Fredrick says. “Our builder, Kiwi II Construction, provided documentation of recycled content as a part of their contract with us.”   

The building also incorporates significant, innovative electrical engineering. The electrical service for HVAC, lights and plugs are all on separate panels that are individually monitored and tracked. “We will know when our electric demand increases and can make adjustments accordingly,” Fredrick says. For instance, air-conditioning use can be increased during non-peak hours, saving money and reducing peak demand on the grid. This approach is a component of Energy & Atmosphere Credit 1, Optimize Energy Performance.

High indoor-air quality is another important component of a green building. At Northgate, the HVAC system operates with a MERV 13 (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filter. An average system runs filtration with a rate of MERV 5-8, Fredrick notes. The air-handling system is designed to provide ventilation that exceeds a typical system by at least 30 percent. The indoor-air-quality plan also involves flushing out the air in the building over a 45-day period post-construction. “The use of low-emitting materials contributes to the high quality of the office and storage space of our building,” Fredrick says.

All carpets, composite wood, paints, sealants, adhesives and other architectural coatings do not exceed the VOC (volatile organic compound) limits as outlined in USGBC Reference Guide.  “When you have a population that spends 90 percent of its time indoors, the consequences of indoor pollution from trapped toxins and off-gasses is profound,” Fredrick says. “The notion of green building is to have a healthy building. That’s exactly what we’ve built with Northgate.”

Attracting Customers

Developing a LEED-certified structure typically costs 5 percent to 10 percent more than traditional self-storage. The tradeoff? Upfront costs vs. long-term ones, Fredrick says. “The building’s functional life expectancy is longer, and the life-cycle analysis demonstrates that costs in the long run are demonstrably less.”

Several warehouses and storage buildings have achieved LEED for core and shell, which focuses on the structural components; but Fredrick is pursuing the certification for new construction, which encompasses all facets of the finished building. “The first costs can be higher, but we made the choices that created an efficient and livable building,” he says. For example, adding insulated foam panels to the exterior of the building costs more, but it created a tighter building envelope, which reduces electricity demand and increases performance of the HVAC system. “We’ll spend more upfront to build an exceptional envelope, then we’ll enjoy the long-term benefits,” Fredrick says.  

Another reason to go green is distinction in the market. Consumers have proven they’re willing to pay for green products and services. “Prospective self-storage customers have easy access to price and amenity comparisons when shopping for a storage facility. They want the most for what they’re willing to pay,” Fredrick says. Despite the increased costs to build the facility and the green advantages it comes with, Northgate’s rent rates are in line with other facilities in the area. “At a comparable price point, we’ll show them the features and benefits of storing in a green building, to which most of our customers are favorably disposed.  The LEED certification is the final point of distinction between us and any other facility,” Fredrick says.

While the LEED certification process is arduous, Fredrick says more commercial developers, including those in the self-storage industry, should expect green building to become more prevalent in the market. “In some cities, all commercial buildings are required to attain some type of green certification and LEED is the industry standard.”

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