By Jim Combs
When a property owner makes the decision to develop a self-storage facility, there are a number of important decisions to be made. In most cases, the first thing the owner will do is hire a site engineer who is familiar with local building codes and their enforcement, and who understands property-line issues and setback requirements. Once the site engineer has done his job, the owner can move on to the next phase.
The Owner's Options
At this point, the owner has a few options. He can hire an architect to prepare a set of drawings for the project, then hire a contractor to put up the buildings, or he can hire a contractor who will both design and erect the buildings. But there is still another important option that owners should seriously consider: the full-service self-storage manufacturer/erector.
"As a turnkey manufacturer, we design our own buildings and actually include the cost of the drawings in the price we quote our customers," says Tom Brandon, vice president of engineering at Statesville, N.C.-based BETCO Inc. "This can mean a substantial savings in engineering fees.
"In other cases, an owner might hire an architect before contracting with a manufacturer, and this can lead to trouble," Brandon continues. "For example, if concrete slabs are poured before components are specified and manufactured, the building may not agree with the manufacturer's standard designs. And 'specials' will result in increased project costs, as well as architect's fees."
More often than not, the engineering department of a full-service manufacturer has years of experience specifically designing self-storage buildings. This knowledge is not always found with some architects, who may not be well-versed in self-storage design. However, there are occasions when a local architect should be involved.
The Architect's Seal of Approval
There are at least two instances when a manufacturer's drawings may be scrutinized and will need an architect's seal of approval before construction can begin:
1) Some localities require an architect of record to provide design services and project coordination. It's the law. Always check with local authorities to determine specific requirements.
2) Some self-storage facilities may include a free-standing office building that is separate from the units themselves. In these cases, an architect will usually be retained to design the office structure.
In terms of getting the components to the building site, some manufacturers have the capacity to ship them on their own trucks. In addition, they may also be able to erect the buildings with their own professional crews. Once again, by choosing a full-service manufacturer, the owner can eliminate extraneous suppliers and simplify the process.
The Importance of Timing
Once the owner's property is ready to receive the components, timing becomes a critical issue. "If an owner isn't able to get his buildings up to suit his schedule, it can mean losing valuable leasing time and can translate into dollars as well," says Terry Huber, BETCO's vice president of manufacturing and construction, and chief operating officer.
"As a single-source supplier, we are in a better position to deliver on time because we can control the manufacturing process and the shipping schedule. When an owner deals with separate suppliers, timing can suffer," Huber says.
Dealing with a single source also means certain cost efficiencies. It can be cheaper to deal with one supplier rather than two or three. The manufacturer who knows that a package deal is in the offing--including design, manufacturing, shipping and building erection--will make sure that the owners gets every financial advantage possible.
Even if the manufacturer's components are more expensive than the competition, the overall investment cost may be lower. This is because buildings made of high-quality materials, such as Galvalume, will withstand the test of time. The owner can look forward to many years of maintenance-free buildings. Unfortunately, some owners make the mistake of trying to save money by buying cheaper components in the beginning, only to pay more in maintenance costs down the road.
Selecting the Right Manufacturer/Erector
If you are an owner who does not have an ongoing relationship with a self-storage manufacturer, has had an unsatisfactory relationship, or has had no experience selecting a manufacturer, there are certain criteria that will help you with the decision. Make sure you choose a manufacturer that will offer the following benefits:
- Full-service capabilities, from building design to building erection.
- Top-quality materials that are prime USA-manufactured to American Standard Testing Materials (ASTM) standard.
- Sales consultants who are knowledgeable and whose experience can be invaluable, particularly to the first-time owner.
- A project manager who will be available to the owner at all times during the project, from start to finish.
- Warranties on all materials and workmanship.
- A history of successful projects and satisfied customers.
In the final analysis, the facility owner who considers all options at the outset of the planning process will benefit most in the long-term. Some options may be better for some owners than others, but just as in the medical profession, it's better to get a second opinion, even a third.
BETCO Inc. is a full-service, self-storage manufacturer/erector based in Statesville, N.C. For more information, contact Jim Combs at (800) 654-7813; www.betcoinc.com.