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Differentiation Through Sustainability: Green Ideas for Self-Storage

Think green lawn lightbulb
One way for self-storage owners to differentiate their facilities in a crowded market is to build or retrofit their properties to be more environmentally sustainable. Following are some tips on green construction, landscaping and more.

Self-storage construction spending has grown rapidly in the last two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The industry spent about $200 million in 2016 and was on track to exceed $280 million last year. There’s a growing demand for the product and plenty of new projects coming to market.

One way for owners to differentiate their facilities in a crowded market is to build or retrofit their properties to be more environmentally sustainable. After all, there’s growing consumer interest in supporting businesses that are striving to “go green.” Following are some ways to make your self-storage business eco-friendly, from building materials to landscaping to customer education.

Building Materials

Many self-storage facilities are constructed of steel, which is already very durable. Galvalume, a proprietary coated steel, prevents the corrosion and deterioration that could result in a compromised building envelope and energy leaks. Just make sure the insulation is sufficient to regulate unit temperature. Consider rigid foam insulation infused with non-toxic borates, the stuff in Borax soap, which also discourages pests.

Efficient roofing is another benefit to steel construction. Roof coatings with a high percentage of infrared reflectants help maintain a more stable building temperature. A “cool” finish can reduce surface temperature by up to 38 degrees and save on energy costs by about 23 percent.

You can also decrease energy use by installing solar panels, LED lighting and sensor-embedded smart technologies, such as computer-controlled thermostats. Lower energy use isn’t only ecological, it creates financial savings for business owners and customers.

Landscaping and Water

The communities that surround self-storage facilities want good business neighbors that maintain an attractive, clean environment. They also want new developments that don’t greatly increase the strain on water and sewer systems. In fact, local zoning laws may require that new construction projects avoid increasing water runoff and or even include a leach field, an underground system used to remove contaminants and impurities from septic-tanks liquid.

Eco-friendly strategies for self-storage properties include decreasing the amount of treated water used for landscaping and increasing the consumption of runoff water. Landscaping thrives on greywater (the relatively clean waste water from baths, sinks and other kitchen appliances), and research shows that plants cleanse toxins from runoff. Xeriscape is one landscaping design that flourishes on runoff. It’s based on attractive plants that can handle both plentiful moisture and drought.

Customer Education

Another way to create a clean, safe environment is to educate customers about items they shouldn’t store in their units. For example, combustible materials, including paints and solvents, are hazardous to the environment and your property. Any item that could leak toxic chemicals or harm air quality should be avoided.

Consider offering clearly marked and well-managed bins for recyclables and potentially dangerous items like car batteries. This is a nice service for customers that reduces operator risk and the accumulation of trash on the property.

Building a self-storage facility can be stressful. When considering new construction or improvements for an existing property, look for a reputable building partner that understands all the options for energy savings and sustainability. Teaming with an eco-conscious company will help you create a green, attractive facility for years to come.

John Barnard is the sales manager at BETCO Inc., a manufacturer of metal buildings and components for the self-storage industry. He’s been with the company for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, with responsibilities including supervision, staff training and support, and contract negotiations. To reach him, call 704.872.2999; e-mail [email protected]; visit

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