Keeping track of almost 900 self storage facilities nationwide, I’m so busy it sometimes seems like I’m bouncing around like a beach volleyball in the Olympic Games! Yet, it’s nice to take a moment to set back, enjoy a long deep, breath, and take stock of accomplishments. At Extra Space Storage, we’ve come a long way toward being more sustainable as a company. In keeping with our commitment to corporate responsibility with energy management, we’ve implemented several sustainability programs in the last few years.
Our major initiatives are the energy efficient programs we’ve installed in the majority of our ~900 properties. These include a variety of programs such as energy efficient lighting, solar panels, and motion sensor lighting systems. We also have a number of other smaller initiatives that together add up to making a significant difference in reducing our waste – in both the environmental and fiscal sense.
I’m happy to report that the response to all these changes has been extremely positive. Customers and shareholders have embraced the green measures, and we sustain them because they help the environment AND the health of our company. I’ll discuss many of our sustainability programs in more detail in future posts, but right now I’m going to open up our storage doors to reveal an overall sketch of how we’ve become more responsible with energy management at our many locations.
With nearly 900 Extra Space Storage properties under my tool belt, I knew we had an opportunity for significant energy savings by upgrading to more efficient lighting systems. These upgrades have saved energy in an environmental sense as we’re using less energy, but they’ve also provided us savings in utilities and labor.
We replaced 250-watt metal halogen exterior lighting fixtures with 34-watt LED fixtures, giving us up to a 66 percent reduction in kilowatt consumption with the same lumen output. Not only that, but since these LED lights can last for more than 12 years, you won’t see us out there replacing lamps that often. We use a Qube LED pack, and there are no ballasts or bulbs to give out on us!
In addition to using LED lights for exterior illumination, we took a look at our interior hallway lighting. The legacy T12 magnetic ballast lights in our facilities run on old, inefficient technology, and they just aren’t the type of lighting we can hold on to as responsible users of energy. So, Extra Space Storage is replacing many of our T12 magnetic ballast lights with T8 fixtures that run on an electronic ballast. These new fixtures do a much better job of regulating the electricity that’s pushed through the wire. This is one of our newer energy efficiency initiatives and so far we’ve changed lighting at 220 properties. Each light that’s transitioned creates a 28 percent reduction in energy consumption.
De-lamping and Daylighting
Sometimes the commonsense solution is right in front of you, and can be unwrapped with a bit of effort and creativity. That’s how I feel about de-lamping and daylighting – two of my favorite means of saving energy.
De-lamping refers to replacing a two-light fixture with a single-light fixture. While de-lamping seems like a simple concept, it does require meticulous planning to keep lighting at proper levels. To make de-lamping a reality at our locations, we painted hallways off-white for great reflectivity of light. By utilizing the walls as part of the lighting, we’re able to achieve more with less. The single light combined with white walls creates about the same luminosity as the double light with darker walls, and we’re able to reduce overall consumption.
For daylight harvesting, we’ve installed skylights and glass wherever possible to take advantage of natural sunlight. This is a win-win: Customers enjoy more real sunlight in naturally brighten facilities, and we reduce our energy consumption by supplementing electrical lighting with sunlight.
We started testing motion sensors for our internal lighting systems in 2008, but have ramped up efforts these last three years. Simply put, we’ve gotten more technical with our motion sensor equipment.
Right now, around half of our properties have motion sensor lighting systems that limit lighting to the area where it’s needed, when it’s needed. These lighting sensors are designed to provide lighting “just in time” to maximize energy efficiency and reduce waste. While motion sensors used to turn on about 200 lights, now they flip the switch on just about seven fixtures at a time. In the past we’d light an entire hallway that could be up to 200 feet long – now we limit the light to the immediate area where it’s needed.
Our motion sensors drastically reduce energy use. For some properties, we’ve had up to a 65 percent reduction in energy use credited to motion sensors, but most properties have a reduction of around 15 to 20 percent.
Solar Panel Installation
We’ve installed solar panels on 51 properties so far, and another 50 properties will receive solar panels this year. After partnering with solar company 1st Light Energy, we installed approximately 5,000 panels in 2010, followed by 22,000 in 2011. We expect to install around 20,000 panels this year.
While solar panels make good environmental sense, thanks to federal and state incentives, they also make good financial sense for Extra Space Storage. We’ve concentrated our solar panel installation efforts in states that offer aggressive incentives for implementation of solar-powered systems. Taking advantage of state and federal incentives means that solar installation has a three to five year payback instead of a 10 to 15 year payback.
Our goal for properties with solar panels is to reduce energy consumption to zero. Solar takes care of about 80 percent of the energy load factor, with lighting improvements knocking out the other 20 percent. Together with our more energy-efficient lighting systems, solar power has enabled Extra Space Storage to cut costs, reduce consumption and become much more responsible users of energy.
We’ve come a long way with improving how we use energy, but all the solar energy in the country wouldn’t help us much if we didn’t also pay a lot of attention to what’s holding it all in – the building envelope, or thermal barrier made up of walls, the roof and the foundation. Securing the building envelope by eliminating air leaks helps us avoid wasting energy used for heating and cooling, and cuts our costs. In addition, having a sound building envelope ensures that our facilities are protected against drafts, moisture and humidity.
First, we perform energy audits to check the integrity of the building envelope. Then, we make any necessary replacements or repairs to windows, doors, walls, and the foundation or roof. We also repair insulation, plus seals around windows and doors. You can learn more about how the building envelope affects energy use at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Extra Space Storage partnered with DocuSign, an electronic signature network, for leases, and that’s made all the difference in our use of paper. DocuSign allows customers to “e-sign” and submit leases, which are stored digitally. Before implementing electronic leases, each facility was using an average of 10 reams or 5,000 sheets of paper each month. Now, most facilities use only a single ream of paper a month! Our toner and printer cartridge drum usage was also reduced by one-third.
The switch to DocuSign made financial and environmental sense, but it also came as a great relief to our customers! Signing contracts to move in before DocuSign took 30 minutes, but with DocuSign, most customers get through it all in just 10 minutes.
Extra Space Storage has made wonderful progress toward becoming a more sustainable business, but we also try to encourage our employees and customers to do their part as well.
Our awareness campaign – “Conserve: The Power is Yours “ – helps store managers and personnel remember those little things that make a big difference, like maintaining proper thermostat settings in offices and properties after hours. Customers may also notice posters reminding them to save energy by closing doors on climate-controlled units when possible during move-in.
Hybrid Cars for Field Managers
Some of our field managers now find themselves behind the wheels of hybrid vehicles! These managers work in areas where they typically drive less than 45 miles per hour, so hybrid cars were a natural fit.
The test program currently includes six hybrid vehicles, and we’re excited about possibly expanding our use of hybrid cars in the future. We will be monitoring usage to determine if the hybrid vehicles actually reduce consumption costs and make sense to roll out to other similar areas.
EPA Energy Star Partner
In 2011, Extra Space Storage became an EPA Energy Star partner. The partnership has helped us with our continuing efforts to reduce energy costs by increasing the energy efficiency of our properties.
Our participation as an Energy Star partner also allows us to demonstrate our environmental stewardship. As an Energy Star partner, we can help preserve our financial health, as well as the health of the environment for future generations.
Not Beach Volleyball, but Still
Whether I’m overseeing our next solar installation, or delving into the world of hybrid cars, I’m always motivated in this work because I’ve been allowed to help transition Extra Space Storage into a more eco-minded business with a smarter bottom line. What could be more fun? Maybe beach volleyball….
How are you trying to conserve energy and reduce costs in your industry? What sustainability initiatives have made sense for your company? If you’ve been reluctant to install solar panels, what were your reasons?