Building an Expensive-Looking Self-Storage Facility Without All the Expense
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Steve Hajewski|
|Posted on: 09/16/2013|
As you read the trade magazines, you probably can’t help but notice that the bar has been raised for self-storage. Some large multi-level facilities have lobbies that look like those of high-end hotels. But the reality for most new projects is far more modest. Across the United States and beyond, basic single-story buildings with a low-pitch roof remain the workhorse of the industry. Economic to buy, easy to build and adaptable to the available land, the majority of sites use these buildings.
As storage developers look to build in more prominent locations geared toward commercial or retail development, planning commissions are requiring them to step up their game to build more attractive sites. This isn’t a bad thing, as curb appeal can be an important factor in your customer’s decision on where to rent. The good news is with the right planning, those value-oriented, single-story buildings can still play a major role in an attractive site. With that in mind, here’s a look at some approaches to achieve a high-end look without breaking the bank.
Buy the Land Right
Before we talk about the buildings, let’s back up and consider the land purchase. As you look for land, prices can be all over the board. Location is critical, but also consider the value of existing infrastructure. For example, if you need to build a pond for storm-water retention, you could be looking at expenses into the tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the extra time to engineer and excavate. A more expensive parcel of land with infrastructure in place may actually be less costly overall.
One pitfall a developer can face in buying land is to go too far into the process without having an accepted offer in place. You don’t want to close on a land purchase until you’re certain the municipality has granted permits to build. Don’t spend any significant amount of money on site design or engineering until you have an offer to purchase accepted by the seller, and you give yourself enough due-diligence time to arrange details such building plans, permits and financing. Check with your local municipality to determine the permitting timeframe. It will probably take longer than you think.
Add a Façade
One of the easiest ways to dress up a basic building is to add a façade to an endwall. These can also feature parapet walls (those that extend taller than the roofline) to give a building more visual interest or conceal a roofline. Some common finishes to apply at an endwall are faux stone, brick or stucco. When choosing a finish, consider the maintenance expense over time. Additionally, consider the weight and its impact on your foundation design. Faux brick works with a floating slab, but real brick would generally require a more costly foundation design.
As you choose a finish, think about the size of the area in which you will apply it. The faux-brick panels look best on larger areas, but don’t have a realistic appearance when applied to smaller areas such as jambs and headers. A few strategically located sections of a premium finish will go a long way toward improving the curb appeal of the site.
Consider the Manager’s Office
If containing costs is a top priority, then an office is likely not part of the plans. But if you’re building one, a small office can be the centerpiece of the site. Rather than apply architectural finishes, high-pitched roofs or other expensive treatments to the large storage buildings, use them on your office. The office is generally one of the most visible elements of the site, but usually not particularly large. Tie the site together visually by using the same finish in a few small locations elsewhere on the site that are visible from the street.
If you’re like me, you appreciate good design when you see it. But I know my limitations. When it comes to picking out what finishes and colors look good together, I get mixed results. If you want the look of a site with an architect’s touch without the expense, ask your building supplier to show you some of its best-looking projects and use that as inspiration. Or, identify attractive commercial structures on other retail business and find inspiration for colors and materials.
You might have to include landscaping to get approval from your local planning commission. Even if it’s not a requirement, it’s still a good idea as it’s a low-cost element that can add curb appeal. Scope out home-improvement and warehouse retailers for special buys, particularly in the spring.
In creating a landscape plan, consider not only upfront cost but long-term maintenance. In planting beds, use rocks over a weed barrier instead of mulch. Select climate-appropriate shrubs and plants to minimize the need to water. Add punch to the site with perennials that come back year after year.
Get the Little Details Right
Of course there are many more details, each deserving special attention, including:
Using a few of these ideas can make an otherwise ordinary site shine, and the incremental cost should be offset by the increased occupancy that comes with having a more attractive self-storage facility. As you design your next site, think about how combining basic buildings with a few smart upgrades can transform the overall look. I hope that you find a few of these ideas to be useful on your next project.
Steve Hajewski is the marketing manager at Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects a full line of pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems, including single- and multi-story, portable storage, interior partition and corridor, and canopy boat/RV. He’s also a frequent contributor on Self-Storage Talk, the industry's largest online community. For more information, call 800.356.5824; visit www.trachte.com .