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Making Changes That Benefit Your Self-Storage Business and Mother Earth

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A new report on climate change underscores the importance of not just awareness but action. Read how this crisis might affect your self-storage business, and what modifications you can make to protect it as well as help preserve the planet.

Late summer in Arizona typically means monsoon season. While the storms from the last few years have been somewhat tame, Mother Nature walloped my state over the past month. The scorching temperatures we’re known for remained in force, but they were joined by thunder, lightning and a torrent of rain. Even though flash flood warnings became common, we’re fortunate. Compared to other states that are pummeled regularly by snow, rain, hurricanes, tornados and wind, our weather is barely noteworthy. I’m sure you’ve endured some frightening weather this year.

This week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report, the first one since 2014. With nearly 4,000 pages, 234 authors and 14,000 citations, it provides a look at where we are and where we’re headed. As you can imagine, the news is dire. Simply put: We humans are drastically altering the planet.

The report has many chatting—and imploring everyone to take climate change seriously. Earlier this week, former Vice President Al Gore tweeted “One of the most important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that when scientists are warning about a looming threat, we all ought to listen.”

Many self-storage operators have endured the consequences of climate change in recent years. ISS has reported on facilities damaged by wildfires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. Then there’s also the wear and tear of extreme weather—hot and cold—on a storage property including building roofs, asphalt, unit doors and other components. Recovery is costly, time-consuming and totally stress-inducing for ownership, staff and tenants.

Fortunately, many storage professionals are taking steps to protect their sites while helping the environment. From e-leases to online billpay, operators are eliminating the overuse of paper products. They reduce waste, recycle, use energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, and choose low-irrigation landscaping. The storage industry has also embraced solar panels, and there are some sites that now operate at a net-zero-energy capacity. Watch this video highlighting a self-storage owner’s journey to add solar.

Last month, self-storage real estate investment trusts Extra Space Storage Inc. and Public Storage Inc. released their annual sustainability reports for 2020 and 2021, respectively. Both are incorporating solar among other green initiatives. You might find some ideas for your storage business in these reports.

Change isn’t just happening on the operations side, either. There are many ways to make self-storage facilities more eco-friendly during construction. Obtaining LEED certification is definitely one path, but there are others as well. City planners are seeking forward-thinking developers, and some are even demanding they incorporate green initiatives. If you’re project isn’t reaching these new standards, you might not get it approved.

COVID-19 might’ve brought the need for healthier buildings to the forefront, but the concept has been percolating for years. It goes way beyond installing plex-glass dividers and hand-sanitizing stations. Earlier this year I spoke with several experts about how storage buildings can be built better. Read what they have to say in this article.

Not understanding how your self-storage facility could be affected by climate change leaves it vulnerable. And that means great risk for you as a business owner. Of course, there’s always a cost. You just need to decide if it’s worth the expense to shore up your defenses now or pay for a problem created by a disaster that caught you off guard. As Al Gore said, we need to listen to the scientists. We only have one planet and it’s everyone’s responsibility to preserve it.

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