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Why Building Green Is Good Self-Storage Business

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By Brian Griewe

If a self-storage company is committed to developing its holdings in a way that benefits the corporation, community and environment, green building must be an inherent practice. How we construct and maintain our properties makes a huge difference in the health of our planet and its inhabitants as well as our own bottom line. Green buildings use little energy, have lower maintenance costs and provide a healthier, more stimulating environment for customers and employees.

But what exactly does it mean to build “green”? The term has been bandied about for decades, and you’ll find it being used in relation to buildings, communities and products, such as vinyl windows and recycled-content flooring. It’s not always easy to sort through those claims, which is why certification programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and the Green Globes rating and certification tool are extremely helpful—even necessary.

LEED awards points for energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, indoor air quality, water conservation, and sustainable materials in a weighted system that adds up to Silver, Gold and Platinum ratings. Green Globes is a bit less rigorous and costly, allowing business owners to select from a list of sustainability features to rack up points toward certification. Working with a LEED-accredited architect who knows how to offset expenses and earn credits without spending extra money makes it easier to get certified.

Why should a self-storage developer or owner bother with certification? More than half the respondents in a recent Nielsen global survey said they were willing to pay more for products and services from companies committed to making positive social and environmental impact. In that same survey, 61 percent of corporate leaders saw sustainability as a key market differentiation that improved financial performance. The USGBC claims green buildings attract tenants more easily and command higher rents and sale prices. In some markets, it states traditionally constructed buildings are experiencing a “brown discount,” renting and selling for less than market value.

According to USGBC, researchers have proven that building to LEED certification standards saves companies in energy and other resource costs over the long run, and provides a more hospitable environment for employees and customers. LEED-certified buildings use 25 percent less energy and see a 19 percent reduction in aggregate operational costs compared with non-certified buildings. As such, building owners report a 19.2 percent increase in return on investment for existing projects and a 9.9 percent increase for new projects. When you throw in the numerous tax incentives, tax credits, grants and expedited building permits you get when you build green, the bottom-line impact becomes pretty substantial.

Storage Goes Green

Many self-storage companies are getting on board with the green movement. Here are but a few examples:

  • Focus Property Group LLC built a solar-powered, Silver-certified Greenbox Self Storage building in downtown Denver using energy-efficient and recycled products and materials.
  • Northgate Self Storage constructed a 675-unit Gold-certified facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., that ventilates and filters air for optimal indoor air quality. This is in addition to energy-efficient features such as insulated-foam panels and low volatile organic compounds (VOC) materials.
  • In Maryland, ezStorage has LEED-certified facilities in Charles Village and Elkridge. The Gold-certified Elkridge facility achieves a 58 percent energy savings over non-certified buildings. The company has pledged that all future facilities will be certified.
  • Also in Maryland, Extra Space Storage Inc. has built 12 Gold-certified facilities, with more pending. The company continues to improve its properties with energy-efficient lighting and solar panels.
  • H. Michael Schwartz, CEO of SmartStop Asset Management Inc., designed, financed and owns a 120,000-square-foot mixed-use facility in Ladera Ranch, Calif., that was built to LEED Gold standards. The property is home to SmartStop’s headquarters and a 42,000-square-foot storage facility. The photovoltaic system powering the facility is expected to generate 472,200 kilowatt hours of energy annually.

Schwartz in front of his Ladera Ranch facilitySolar is an untapped opportunity about to explode. In Canada, where the solar market is in its infancy, SmartStop has built three high-revenue, high-efficiency storage facilities powered by 750,000-kilowatt solar systems. SmartStop included conduits for future photovoltaic systems on every building because it’s much easier and less expensive than trying to retrofit.

Electricity from coal, gas and hydro (water) isn’t getting cheaper. Local governments are making energy efficiency a standard requirement for building licenses and permits. And builders are realizing that something as simple as keeping ceiling heights low—so they don’t have to heat and cool vast amounts of empty space—can yield big savings in the long run.

That’s the great news about so many “green” building practices: They save money. In the self-storage industry, where curb appeal matters, companies pay a lot to keep thirsty landscaped grounds alive. Installing rain gauges and xeriscaping—landscaping that eliminates the need for supplemental irrigation—are two easy ways to turn down the spigot and diminish the money flow.

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