The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently announced that, since 2017, the number of green, LEED-certified homes has grown by 19%. There are now nearly 400,000 single-family, multifamily and affordable housing LEED-certified storage units in the U.S., which is an all-time high and shows an increasing commitment to environmental issues.

California leads the way, with almost 40,000 certified units, and Texas is in second place with slightly more than 24,500. No other US state has managed more than 11,000 certified units as yet, but take up of the program could increase even more rapidly as people start to realize some interesting facts: green buildings don’t necessarily cost more to build than conventional ones, but they often sell faster and for higher prices.

Fortunately, it’s not just the residential sector that’s gaining green traction: commercial buildings and storage facilities are making huge advances with regard to environmental stewardship. In fact, corporate solar deployment is 23 times larger today than it was a decade ago, according to a recent NAREIT report. If you want your company to be one of the industry’s game-changers, there are several steps you can take in this direction.

Photo of garage-style storage units in a green environment.
Image by Mike Mozart via flickr

Why Make Your Facility Greener?

Many existing facilities could accommodate green features, and if you are considering building a new one then now is certainly a good time to consider them. This would not only help the environment but might also bring commercial advantages in an increasingly competitive market.

Helping the Environment

The state of the environment affects us all, and the self-storage industry can do its part to protect it. Storage units which use a lot of air-conditioning and heating round-the-clock consume a lot of electricity, which currently creates large amounts of harmful greenhouse gases. Then there is the problem of refuse, which needs to be buried somewhere or incinerated, leading to further environmental issues.

Federal Incentives

Federal incentives exist that encourage the building of environmentally friendly buildings or the green refurbishment of existing ones. These can make a considerable difference to the cost of implementing green initiatives, and they may persuade storage providers to take the plunge. They are not available all the time, so when they appear it may be wise to grab them without too much delay.

Business Advantages

Some storage providers have realized that many customers are willing to pay a bit more for green self-storage. They therefore make environmental awareness a fundamental part of their corporate strategy and may consider it a key to success. If investment in green initiatives can be absorbed in the company’s balance sheet, cost benefits will start to accrue. These can of course be passed on to the consumer, making the facility even more competitive.

Ways to Make Your Facility Greener

The sight of solar panels and LED lighting pleases both environmentalists and astute business people who understand the savings that can be made. In addition, small alterations to a storage facility can generate customer appreciation and make the place look a lot more inviting.

Solar Power

Solar panels are the most obvious way in which green energy can be generated at a storage facility, and this will be particularly valuable where storage units are heated or use air-conditioning. They are also usually the improvement that is most likely to qualify for federal aid, which can knock quite a large percentage off the cost.

Installing solar panels requires a significant investment, but it may be cheaper than anticipated. How quickly this initial financial outlay is recouped depends on a variety of factors, such as the cost of installation, the ambient climate at the facility and how much electricity is consumed there.

Energy Efficiency

LED lighting is another way in which storage providers can spend less on energy, and if it is coupled with motion detectors—so it only turns on when people are present—then so much the better. Replacing old equipment such as boilers and air-conditioning units involves investing some money, but the gains in energy efficiency can be large. Performing an energy audit will help determine a facility’s energy weaknesses.

The use of batteries, which store the day’s sunlight and then power lighting and surveillance systems during the night, ensures round-the-clock efficiency. With this and other measures in place, some storage facilities now boast that the energy they use is, or soon will be, 100% renewable.

Other Green Improvements

The break room at a green self-storage facility should not feature plastic cups or paper towels, and with a bit of effort the owners might have achieved a paperless office too. Providers may also discourage the use of disposable items such as cardboard boxes, with sturdy, reusable ones preferred instead.

Storage facilities can go beyond way what is expected of them. One idea is to set up recycling bins on the premises so customers can dispose of their old things there instead of having to make a special trip with them. Some owners claim to have made their pickup and delivery services extra efficient, reducing the amount of gas that is consumed. And finally, some are so ‘green’ that they use part of their profits to plant trees!

Photo of 4 differently colored recycling bins.

Some people may still see self-storage as a rough-and-ready industry providing basic and unattractive facilities without much concern for anything except profit margins. But, thanks to a greater awareness and a wider range of customers, this is changing. For providers who want to build new facilities or renovate old ones, working with an LEED-certified contractor is recommended.

There are considerable advantages out there for self-storage providers who turn their facilities green. Solar-powered heating and LED lighting are good long-term investments. Other worthwhile changes can be made, and they also let clients know that the owners are serious about environmental concerns. All in all, it’s a situation where everybody wins! Look at the storage facilities on StorageCafe – you may see some that have gone green already.


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

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