ISS Blog

The Green Round Up

A year ago when I wrote a feature about self-storage and the green movement, there were a handful of facilities trying out solar, looking for green products and services, and garnering some attention.

Now, more self-storage developers, owners, managers and builders are looking for eco-friendly products and services. Some recent “green” news from the ISS website:

  • The opening of Thornwood Self Storage Center in New York, a 48,000-square-foot facility with green features ranging from rooftop solar panels to an energy-saving, motion-sensored lighting system. The three-story self-storage structure was converted from a health club, reusing 95 percent of the existing structure. 
  • Safe & Secure Automated Self Storage facility in Coconut Creek, Fla., received a Green Building of America Award from Real Estate & Construction Review magazine. The facility is one of the first developed by Automated Self Storage Systems LLC in partnership with Westfalia Technologies Inc.
  • Bellam Self Storage is one of more than 70 businesses participating in the San Rafael Clean Campaign in East San Rafael, Calif.. Participants vow to keep the town clean, provide adequate trash and recycling bins and educate employees about proper trash disposal.

Bellam was also featured in the ISS article, A Green Future for Self-Storage: Getting on the Eco-Bandwagon. The story highlights the many ways self-storage operators can embrace green products and services, including solar, water containment systems and recycling.
Green has become such a force in the self-storage industry, we’ve added two seminars to the fall Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5-8, that explore how facilities, builders and developers can embrace the movement. Buster Owens of Rabco Corp., will speak about green building certification, something he recently acquired. We’ll also have a solar panel seminar with Bob Hayworth of Baja Construction that explores how, when and why owners should consider solar panels.

If you haven’t considered any green initiatives for your property, I encourage you to do so. Simple steps you make today can make a huge difference in the future. Start with this article from the ISS archives about simple ways to make your office green. If you’re looking to build, check out Green Building in Self-Storage: Not a Fad. Not a Trend. The Future.

If you’re facility is already walking the green line, good for you. Share your story by posting a comment below or head over to Self-Storage Talk.

SS/20 Building Systems Creates a Better Way to Build Multi-Story Self-Storage

Looking to create a faster, more economical way to build multi-story self-storage facilities, Chris Woodward started SS/20 Building Systems in 1995. Based in Bradenton Fla., the company has constructed millions of square feet of self-storage. Woodward’s philosophy is simple: Take care of customers at all cost, and form partnerships with them so everyone can be successful.  

A New Design

SS/20 designed a new concept for multi-story storage facilities using structural tube steel on a 10-foot-by-10-foot grid. This revolutionary system consists of steel tube columns running vertically from floor to floor, with each column stacking into the column below it. The company was awarded a patent on this stack-frame system.

Because the system was designed to be free-standing, building erection is fast and efficient, with no bolts protruding through the upper-level slabs. This unique framing offers many advantages:  

  • Flexibility of floor plan: Interior partitions are not required for support, enabling them to be removed at any time to reconfigure the unit mix. 
  • No need of full-height interior partitions: No need for in-unit lighting, sprinkler heads and HVAC outlets. No interior partitions for trades to work around.
  • Hallways and partitions installed last: This avoids damage from other trades.
  • Faster system erection: Because no drilling is required, there is no waiting for elevated slabs to cure. Erectors get back on the job the day after floor is poured.
  • No need for heavy equipment: The majority of jobs require only a lull.
  • Larger pool of steel suppliers: SS/20 is not tied into any one supplier and has fabricators located nationally.
  • Compatibility with all types of roof systems: The system works with built-up, standing seam, etc. 

“After 15 years, there is a sensible, quick and easy system for ‘high-rise’ self-storage buildings,” says Tim Burnam of Storage Mart. “SS/20 has a great versatile system that gets us out of the weather and closer to renting units sooner than any other system we have used. It’s so simple, bringing to high-rise structures what pre-engineered steel buildings brought to the self-storage industry 20 years ago.”

SS/20’s structural engineer is registered in 42 states and can furnish a complete set of drawings including foundation and masonry-wall design. The framing system is compatible with all building types from two stories to eight stories. The system furnishes floor heights up to 20 feet tall to handle mezzanines, and drive-through and retail/office space on the ground level. Many types of siding are used on the buildings from tilt-up, masonry, block and insulated composite wall panels with an insulation factor up to R-33.  

Meeting Challenges

Storage Post recently hired SS/20 to build a 95,000-square-foot, six-story facility in Brooklyn, N.Y. The site had two basement levels. Originally given 70 working days to complete the job, SS/20’s schedule was reduced to an aggressive 43 days so the owner could meet an opening deadline.

Even with the unique challenges of building in a New York borough, SS/20 completed the building in a record 35 days. “Given the aggressive schedule, we were cautiously optimistic going into this,” says Marc Slayton, president of Storage Post. “SS/20 Building Systems met or exceeded every deadline that was set. We look forward to working with them on our future projects.”

For more information, call 941.746.8170; visit

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ISS Blog

Reevaluating Your Staffing in an Economic Slowdown

Since the downturn began, many of us hoped and waited for the high season of storage to begin. We faced it with high hopes that rentals would jump again, people would move and our occupancies would climb.

Unfortunately reality has set in and we’re all realizing that, at least for this year, things in our industry will not be business as usual.

We went through a mini version of this in our area of the country during one of the many “dot-com busts,” and it hurt a lot of companies that depended upon the influx of people coming to the valley for jobs. This is not a new experience for many of us.
What happened back then was sad for many acquaintances in storage. Owners immediately determined their staff was underperforming, not that other indicators were affecting their business. Many highly motivated and caring managers lost their jobs, and those owners determined too late in the game what they had lost.

Granted with business remaining slow and price wars escalating around us, we should all be evaluating how we operate, what our peak times are for staffing, how we can cut costs without diminishing our product and more.

Staffing is, of course, a major cost component of running our stores. Refinancing is difficult, health insurance costs are rising, taxes in some states are increasing, etc. All in all, even with small increases in various budget-line items, this collectively can add up to some major dollars lost, or not gained at the very least.
If you're considering reducing your staff, take a good look around, survey your competition, read the industry reports and surveys. Take a peek at Self-Storage Talk forum's “list of hats” worn by the people manning the front counter as a starting point for evaluating your own staff.
The person at the front desk must be able to multi-task, evaluate various personality types and deal with each on a seconds’ notice to provide the best storage experience possible to that individual. A manager must be on top of the business and a marketing demon, sometimes while simultaneously fighting ownership for a couple hundred dollars to do that very same marketing.

Just scanning the other thread titles on Self-Storage Talk can give you a good idea of how hard good managers and owner/operators alike are trying to learn how to be the absolute best they can in this struggling economy.

Many of our industry leaders are surveying members for new ideas and concepts to help make the Inside Self-Storage World Expo, Oct. 5-8 in Washington, D.C., a more valuable experience for all attending. It’s a zoo out there, and unfortunately the customers are escaping. We all learn from each other and the bottom line is we need to keep our industry at the top of its game so we all win. It's a task we’re much better at if we join together and work as a team.

Kentucky Facilities Added to Strategic Storage Trust Portfolio

In an all-cash transaction, Strategic Storage Trust Inc. purchased two self-storage properties in the Kentucky suburbs of Cincinnati. The publicly registered, non-traded real estate investment trust acquired the Security Self Storage facilities in Erlanger and Florence, Ky., for a combined price of $9.7 million. The purchase―the company’s 10th since going public―adds approximately 1,500 units and 190,000 rentable square feet to the company’s portfolio.
The Florence property was built in 1982 and expanded in 1995. It contains approximately 890 units and 126,300 net rentable square feet on 10 acres.
The Erlanger property was built in 1987. It contains approximately 610 units and 63,700 net rentable square feet on five acres.
In February, Strategic Storage Trust finalized the $9.9 million purchase of three self-storage facilities in North Kentucky, all within 15 miles of Cincinnati.
The company’s sponsor is Strategic Capital Holdings, which manages a growing portfolio of more than 5.5 million square feet of commercial properties, including 3.9 million square feet of self-storage.

Related Articles:

Strategic Storage Trust Celebrates One-Year Anniversary

Strategic Storage Trust Finalizes $4.7M Acquisition in Manassas, Va.

Strategic Storage Trust Buys U-Stor-It Facilities  

Thornwood Self Storage Committed to Green Principles

Starting in August, Thornwood, N.Y., residents can rent storage space at a facility committed to green principles. The 48,000-square-foot, 360-unit Thornwood Self Storage Center uses rooftop solar panels, motion-sensor lighting, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and several other environmentally friendly features. The facility is the brainchild of local real estate developers and long-time business partners Dan Kasman and Michael Gyory, who are dedicated to the local community and energy conservation.
The three-story self-storage structure was converted from a health club, reusing 95 percent of the existing structure. Construction debris was recycled and reclaimed in an effort to reduce the impact on landfills. The facility offers recyclable and biodegradable packing materials and uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products. Local vegetation has been planted around the facility to eliminate the need for an underground irrigation system. The facility also has an onsite power backup and an alternative-fuel moving truck.
"These green practices help to dramatically decrease energy consumption, save natural resources and provide a better experience for customers and employees, at no additional cost," said Gyory. "We also feel it is important to raise awareness of good environmental practices among members of our local community." The business is developing several outreach-based initiatives and partnerships with environmental organizations.
Kasman and Gyory engaged the services of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and O'Dea, Lynch, Abbattista Consulting Engineers to facilitate the energy-efficient development of the building.
The project was funded with a $4.3 million construction loan from Wells-Fargo Bank NA.
Kasman and Gyory also built and operated Katonah Self Storage Center, which they sold in 2005.

Related Articles:

Green Building in Self-Storage: Not a Fad. Not a Trend. The Future.

A Green Future for Self-Storage: Getting on the Eco-Bandwagon

The Eco-Friendly Self-Storage Office: Tips!

Green Building in Self-Storage: Sustainability and Environmentally Friendly Options

Alternative Building Methods for Self-Storage 

Storage Express Opens Sellersburg, Ind., Location

Storage Express celebrated the grand opening of its newest facility in Sellersburg, Ind., last month. The existing 25,000-square-foot facility is the first of two phases planned for this project. The site includes climate control, high-tech security and a 24-hour automated rental center.
Storage Express owns and operates 75 properties in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. This year, the Bloomington, Ind.-based company has also opened self-storage facilities in Bedford, Columbus and Petersburg, Ind.

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Oroville Self Storage Holds Ribs Cook-Off

A ribs cook-off contest will be held at Oroville RV/Boat & Self-Storage in California from 3-8 p.m. on Aug. 1 to benefit the Oroville YMCA. The contest is open to all who wish to enter for a $25 entry fee. Trophies will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place winners as well as cash prizes ranging from $80 to $200. The jackpot will be awarded to the grand-prize winner. The event will include live music, a car show, kids’ activities and more. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the self-storage facility or the YMCA, or at the gate on the day of the event.
Source: Enterprise-Record, What's Happening in Oroville

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Storage Industry Lends a Helping Hand

Green Building in Self-Storage: Not a Fad. Not a Trend. The Future.

Since the first Earth Day was proclaimed in 1970, protecting the environment has evolved from a grassroots demonstration to a global cause. Individuals, businesses and the government have all taken steps to ensure the planet will be a healthy environment for generations to come. From recycling to alternative sources of energy, the hunt for a green future is on.

With buildings generating 72 percent of all energy consumption in the United States, it’s no surprise that a major focus of the green movement has turned to the development and construction of buildings. Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), a voluntary building-certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, offers further guidance on creating more energy-efficient structures while minimizing the environmental impact.

In the commercial building sector, self-storage already has many inherent green qualities. Facilities are made of steel, a recyclable product. They use less energy to operate (particularly those that don’t offer climate control), and require few employees to operate. Once built, little waste is produced, compared with an office building, for example.

But while the self-storage industry already has many green aspects and its buildings leave a smaller carbon footprint than other types of commercial real estate, there’s still room for improvement. Some developers and builders are taking up the challenge.

On Rooftops

Many self-storage facilities are already going green by installing solar panels on rooftops to harness energy from the sun. Solar technology has evolved and is now more affordable and available. Plus, there are many government rebates and tax credits available to offset the cost of installation. In some states, most notably Florida, facility owners can even sell excess power the facility generates back to the power company. Solar panels can also be installed on RV and boat carports, a huge boon for developers looking to create future profit.

Another cost-effective element that can be added to rooftops is “COOL” systems or white paint. COOL paints or panels have a special pigment that reflects solar radiation by at least 25 percent. Metal roofs coated with PVDF-based resin can achieve solar reflectance of more than 25 percent, reducing energy consumption by up to 40 percent as part of a total system design, says Wes Brooker, marketing development manager for American Buildings Co. The Eufaula, Ala.-based company offers a number of COOL paint products including SmartKote PVDF premium coatings.

Facilities with climate control will have the biggest advantage, particularly in warmer climates. “Compared to bare Galvalume roof panels, which are used extensively in self-storage, savings in cooling can run as much as 50 percent,” Brooker says. “Another advantage of COOL coatings is they help reduce the heat-island effect by reducing the amount of heat absorbed and held by a building."

New Construction

With the overall green-building market for commercial and residential expected to increase from today’s $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion by 2013, according to McGraw Hill Construction, there’s no denying green building is the new frontier in construction.

“This is not a fad. This is not a trend. This is the future of the world,” says Buster Owens, president of The Rabco Corp., Winter Garden, Fla. Owens’ interest in green building compelled him to become a LEED-certified accredited professional in new construction and major renovations. Owens was also recently invited to participate on the design team for a new Metro Self Storage facility in Murray, Utah.

While Rabco has yet to embark on a full LEED-certified self-storage project, the company is working with customers to bring green systems and products into their designs. It is building a covered parking lot in Knoxville, Tenn., that will feature solar power. Other green initiatives are being considered, including gravel and open-grid pavers instead of asphalt. The project could even qualify for LEED certification points.

In addition, the project’s solar panels will enable the owner to depreciate the structure and the solar panels together, Owens says, decreasing the cost of the overall project. “That’s a big deal, because that’s a big part of the cost of the project. The cost of the structure is significant and that accelerated depreciation is attractive.”

There are also a number of federal and state tax rebates, incentives and credits for new projects with sustainable aspects. “There are all kinds of offsets, especially in renewable energy like solar, to offset some of those costs,” Owens says.

Plus, there are other benefits for self-storage facilities that are built to green standards, including a reduction in operating costs and a higher return in investment (because the value of the building increases). Occupancy ratios typically go up 3 percent as do rental rates, Owens says.

Case Studies

In addition to choosing green materials for new construction, there are other avenues that, with some thought and planning, can lead to a more eco-friendly building. This includes selecting a conversion over a new build, or using products made from a higher content of recycled materials. “These are simple things you can do that don’t cost a lot of money,” says Charles Plunkett, president of Capco Steel and Artistic Builders Inc.

Some builders and developers may soon find they no longer have a choice when it comes to building sustainable projects, as more cities and towns adopt green ordinances. “There are a few cities out there that are ultra-progressive, so there will be pockets that are more stringent with green building,” Plunkett says.

Plunkett came across this firsthand while building a facility in Austin, Texas, four years ago. Because the building was in an affluent area, the owner had to adhere to higher standards. Stor Bee Caves is 100 percent steel with a small footprint, and uses a water-catchment system to irrigate landscaping. The project also included waste-segregation management, a streamlined way to repurpose materials from construction sites.

“You actually separate the waste into containers so everything that can be recycled is and doesn’t end up in a landfill,” Plunkett says.

Similarly, when building Safe & Secure Automated Self Storage Systems in Coconut Creek, Fla., all trash left on the jobsite went to a co-mingle yard and was separated into plastic, paper, wood, cement and dirt materials. The facility, the first fully automated self-storage project, provides direct access to individual units using a patented retrieval machine. “When it comes to energy, we have a huge advantage on the conventional facility,” says Paul Talley, vice president of Automated Self Storage Systems LLC.

Because the building is automated, minimal lighting was installed. Water-efficient products, such as dual-flush toilets and automatic water faucets in restrooms, reduce water usage. And the building’s electric and climate control are on a management system, keeping use on track.

In addition, the developer, Automated Self Storage Systems LLC, made careful choices when purchasing materials for the facility. “We tried to use material with high-recycle content as well as regional materials, things mined or manufactured with in 500 miles,” Talley says.

Future Demand

The demand for green products and services is only going to increase. “Green building is absolutely the thing of the future,” Plunkett affirms.

According to a McGraw Hill Construction Smart Market Trends Report, green building demand in 2008 was $12 billion. In 2010, it’s projected to be $60 billion. There are many reasons for this: government initiatives, the demand from a population concerned about the environment, and improvements in sustainable materials.

While choosing green can often be more expensive, it can also be an effective marketing and sales strategy. A self-storage facility that has some green aspects may be able to win over more customers. “The manager will say, ‘By the way, our facility is green-friendly.’ If everything is equal, that individual may decide to rent from the green facility,” says Plunkett, who likens it to buying an alternative-fuel car or organic foods. “What percentage of the population will do that? I don’t know, but there is a portion of the population that will choose to rent from that facility because it’s eco-friendly.” 

Related Articles:

A Green Future for Self-Storage: Getting on the Eco-Bandwagon

The Eco-Friendly Self-Storage Office: Tips!

Green Building in Self-Storage: Sustainability and Environmentally Friendly Options

Alternative Building Methods for Self-Storage 

Rabco President Owens Receives LEED Professional Accreditation

Technology and Self-Storage Third-Party Management

To determine the future of self-storage, we must first look to the past. Gone are the days of manual reporting and hand-written checks, along with waiting for the mail to get bank statements or send reports to property owners.

Many third-party management companies now offer online tools, giving facility owners and managers access to reports, occupancy stats and even remote viewing capabilities via onsite cameras and monitoring systems.

So where is third-party management headed in the next year, five years or even 10? There has been phenomenal growth in the number of third-party management companies over the last two decades, with some startups in growing markets around the world.

When thinking about the future of this industry subcategory, the problems we now face in communications and processing come to mind first and foremost. Everyone wants faster, more accurate reporting and analysis tools. In this arena, we will see continuing improvements across the board.

Software vendors will continue to refine operating platforms to customize combined reporting for portfolios within minutes. This tool alone will cut countless hours of re-entering data to get comparative information. Accounting software, access-control systems and management software will all bring dramatic improvements in monitoring and analysis.
Getting More From Technology

There are more ways to make the most of cameras and office equipment and bring more value for everyone. Using the tools we have in better and more creative ways allows us to increase responsiveness without adding any costs.

Many self-storage owners and managers are already familiar with Web-based operating software. In the future, these systems will become even more advanced, aggregating reporting for all of a company’s facilities quickly and in a format that is meaningful.

Touch screens with icons for each store and combined reports could also play a role. For example, touching the screen for a particular store could bring up a management-summary report or occupancy information. This will enable third-party management companies to more quickly answer questions from owners and access any level of detail in an instant.

Face-to-face communication may also become a part of regular meetings in the near future. Laptops can now be equipped easily with cameras so everyone can stay in touch, even when traveling. Interviews can be done long distance, cutting down on travel and the associated expenses. Operators and managers will continue to see more streamlining in the reporting, communications and analysis processes.
The Development Stage

Improving margins and profit for property owners is another goal for most third-party management companies. As systems and processes become more automated, operating costs will decrease.

Each year, more third-party management companies are conducting feasibility studies and market analysis, developing marketing strategies and providing manager training. No one in the industry better knows how stores operate and what features are needed like a management company.

Providing these valuable services from the moment a client chooses a site to the grand opening allows a management company to ensure the front desk is functional, customers are accommodated, and traffic flows in and out of the site as it should. These services will play an even more important role in the future.

The current financial market not only dictates a well-structured plan, it requires developers to have someone on the team with a proven track record. Accurate forecasting of lease-up absorption, negative cash requirements during leaseup, and startup costs can best be found by using a proven management professional in the planning and development of any new self-storage operation. These services will become increasingly important as the industry changes due to pressure from financial providers.
M. Anne Ballard is president of Atlanta-based Universal Management Co., which provides global consulting for self-storage evaluations, feasibility studies, training and development services. The company also offers full-service fee management in the United States, where it manages more than 35 storage locations. For more information, visit

Related Articles:

Hiring a Third-Party Management Company for Self-Storage

Partnering With a Self-Storage Call Center

Running an Automated Self-Storage Site: Customers Clamor for Self-Service

Self-Storage Talk: When to Select a Third-Party Management Co.

ISS Blog

Keeping It Crime-Free: Safety and Good PR

Try as it might to battle a negative public image, self-storage just can't seem to "get clean" in the eyes of some people. But things are improving. I scour the Internet daily for news stories about this industry, and it's refreshing to see the number of positive stories increasing. Articles about robberies, crime and "victims" whose goods are sold at lien sale still make up the lion's share, but slowly the scales are shifting.

Early this week, a facility in Wichita Falls, Texas, received a public blow after a meth lab was discovered in one of its units (Tenant Caught Storing Meth). But today a follow-up story appeared in which the facility owner talks about a new crime-free program she'll be joining with local law enforcement (Crime-Free Program for Self-Storage). Part of this was lucky timing ... The Wichita Falls PD has been working with apartment-complex managers in the area, teaching them ways to recognize and reduce criminal and unsafe activity on site. They'd thought to extend the program to storage facilities; Tuesday's incident sealed the deal.

It rarely happens, but in this case, the facility owner was able to create some positive PR out of a bad situation. And she is now participating in a program that will not only help keep her facility safe, she can promote it to tenants as a benefit of storing at her site.

Inside Self-Storage once published an article about a facility manager who offered his facility as a training site for police dogs (K-9 Capers: Arizona facility relies on police dogs to keep the peace). Sometimes you have to be think outside the box when it comes to security, but there's a two-pronged benefit to doing so: increased peace of mind for the facility and for tenants, and a positive angle for media.

Do you participate in  crime-watch or other crime-prevention programs in your area? Do you offer space to local law enforcement for training or meetings? Do police regularly drive through your property? Share your safety strategies! And if you'd like to participate in an online conversation about preventing meth labs and other crime on self-storage properties, check out the "Meth & Self-Storage" thread on Self-Storage Talk.