New accreditation hopes to boost the burgeoning industry and avoid a repeat of a fiery past
The Self Storage Association Asia (SSAA) established the S.A.F.E Self Storage Standards, Asia’s first standards and certification programme. Standing for:
The programme certifies member self storage locations as being in compliance with Fire Services Department (FSD) and Buildings Department (BD) guidelines.
“I am not aware of any program in the United States of Europe on the same scale,” says SSAA Executive Director Andrew Work
“Other countries tried and failed because they could not find a common standard in the industry”.
Companies looking for accreditation have to apply for each location and pass standards independently assessed by real estate Knight Frank, acting as an Authorized Person (AP).
“Knight Frank is proud to assist in the elevation of self-storage standards in Hong Kong,” says Calvin Chan, Director, Head of Building Services at Knight Frank.
“Consumers and businesses will be able to have peace of mind knowing that APs have signed off on the sites”.
Rebirth from the flames
Regulations for self storage were updated after 2014, June 21 due to the Amoycan Industrial Centre fire in Ngau Tau Kok where SC Storage operated.
“There were more than 200 mini-storage cubicles with complex and criss-cross layouts and the passageways were very narrow. Firefighters had to break each locked cubicle open to hose them,” writes the Fire Services Department in their 2016 Review.
The fire was only put out on June 25 after over 100 hours of firefighting. Two firefighters suffered serious injuries and later passed away in medical care.
As a result of the tragedy, the FSD and BD embarked on several fact finding exercises, attended by the budding SSAA, to identify and rectify similar issues. By Sept 2016, the government had identified 756 self storage sites in Hong Kong and issued 242 Fire Hazard Abatement Notices to 58 operators. While there exists no specific regulations on fire safety for self storage units, the Fire Services Department has enforceable recommendations such as “a separation distance of 2.4 metres between rows/clusters” of units unless the cubicles are created using a fire resistance material.
Regulations for fire safety in industrial buildings, where the majority of Hong Kong’s self storage units are based, was updated in 2020 and many self storage owners are rushing to comply.
“The self storage industry greatly changed after the fire,” says Samuel Chiu of StorageWorks.
“There are much higher standards now”.
Self Storage Olympics
The programme has three tiers: Gold, Silver and Bronze, which indicate different formalities of accreditation.
“Unlike the Olympics, the levels do not mean that one accreditation is better than the other, but they indicate different elements aimed at different stakeholders,” says Heily Lai, Director of Community Events
“A consumer would be more interested in a Gold or Silver standard while banks and industry professionals might be more interested in the Bronze certification for planned locations”.
A Gold Certificate indicates that an premises is fully complaint with FSD and BD fire regulations at the time of inspection. Gold accreditations are valid for three years.
Silver Certificates indicate that a site is currently renovating to become compliant with new or updated regulations. Silver Certificates are valid for one year and renewable for a maximum of three years. When renovations are complete, they may reapply for Gold Certification.
Bronze Certificates are for planned sites and indicate that current plans are fully compliant with guidelines. Accreditations are valid until the site is complete, up to a maximum of three years. Sites may reapply for Gold Certification once completed.
Accreditations are site specific and a company with more than one site has to apply for accreditation foreach site independently.
Industry players are supportive of this move and seven self storage companies, both major and independent, have signed up to apply for accreditation including:
· RedBox Storage
· The Store House
· Hong Kong Storage
· SC Storage
· 100Storage (The Storage)
Accredited companies will be listed on the S.A.F.E website and featured on the quarterly industry gazette. They will also be allowed to showcase the S.A.F.E badge on accredited sites alongside a QR code that allows consumers to access the accreditation.
At the official release of the program, RedBox Storage’s Tuen Mun site was the only completed full Gold Accreditation.
StorageWorks, a “premium tailored” unit in Kwai Chung is currently the only company applying for Silver Accreditation.
There are hopes to expand the programme to other jurisdictions in Asia, starting with Singapore.
About the SSAA
The Self Storage Association Asia was created in 2014.
The SSAA operates as a non-profit industry body representing the Self Storage and Valet Storage industry across Asia and supporting members to drive best practices and professionalism across the storage sector.