This is a guest post written by Lance Watkins of Storage Outlet in southern California.
With millions of storage units and tens of thousands of storage facilities in the USA, is the self-storage industry doing its part to be environmentally friendly?
The short answer is yes, but not in the ways you might expect.
History and Advancement
Storage in its beginning was the ultimate land repurpose machine, its entire existence built around taking property which had little value and developing a minimal income stream until the community reached its border and the land had a higher use. The facility would then be replaced with development appropriate for the site.
Even facilities in urban and suburban locations are repurposing land with limited options that wouldn’t otherwise be used at all. Some examples include power-line right-of-ways, brownfields and easement encumbrance including aviation, vibration and utilities.
By building facilities using nontraditional materials, like repurposed containers from the shipping industry, creative developers can not only build in areas where they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed, but will also reduce waste from other industries.
A Modern Case Study
An example of this creativity is Storage Outlet in South Gate, California, which placed 120,000 sq feet of rentable storage on a Southern California Edison (SCE) distribution right-of-way. Due to power-line access and potential future power expansion, SCE as well as the state California Public Utility Commission restricted uses which required building on this land. The solution was to work around the transmission department setbacks and place converted shipping containers on the site to act as storage units.
This facility has for years been used by renters who position property for resale in marketplaces such as flea markets, online marketplaces and auction houses. The majority of the items stored at a self storage facility are in a holding pattern, waiting to be reused or repurposed. Storage facilities are also regularly used as drop-off points for recyclable items or charity drop points. See CharityStorage.org as an example.
In addition to utilizing land that would otherwise lay fallow and acting as a warehouse for multiple small businesses, the site is being evaluated to determine if it will be a good location to place battery banks to store renewable energy during the day to place back into the grid in the evening. The state of California required a high percentage of the energy supplied to the facility to be renewable. One hurdle with renewable energy is it is primarily produced during the day when the sun is highand the wind can move generators. However, the demand does not peak until early morning or evenings. The storage systems require close proximity to the distribution systems and infrastructure to house power cells. The storage facility with its available space and secured property lines under the transmission lines was the perfect solution.
Now and In The Future
The next time you see a storage facility ask yourself what may be under, over or in the units that make efficient use of space. Look at the items in your house or apartment and remember if they have been in storage at some point allowing you to still enjoy them. When you go into a secondhand or antique store what are the chances the items you are browsing stayed a few nights at a storage hotel?
What will storage do for us in the future? Will we be using storage facilities to pick up items we ordered online? This may reduce time and cost of delivery, because the facility is on our daily route and our mobile device can determine the best location. Will we be charging our electric cars at storage facilities? Storage facilities traditionally have large roof-tops which do not need access, making them the perfect place for solar panels. The extent to which a self-storage facility can be green is limited only by its developer’s creativity.