By Elaine Foxwell
You have purchased the land for your future self-storage facility. It has a good drive-by location, zoning has been approved, and you are ready to build. An easy way to see your project become a reality is with panelized buildings. Modular Mini Storage provides unique building kits to the self-storage industry. Walls are prefabricated and delivered to the site ready to stand in place. “The local contractor finds them easy to assemble,” says Terry Wellner, the company’s CEO.
Founded by Wellner and Bob Allworth, project manager, Modular has been building high-quality self-storage buildings since 1993. The company’s 13,000-square-foot shop is in Tualatin, Ore., near Portland. “We’re a small company without a sales staff. Most of our work is for repeat customers and people who hear about us from folks we’ve worked with,” Wellner says.
Strong, Efficient Construction
The foundation of the Modular Mini self-storage kit is the wall system. “Nearly every wall is a weight-bearing shear wall, making our buildings some of the strongest in the industry,” Wellner says. Each building is composed of galvanized-steel framed walls, prefabricated in the company’s shop under stringent conditions. Special fixtures and tooling enable efficient manufacturing to keep costs low. Using computer generated shop drawings, Modular builds each wall on special framing tables to maintain dimensional tolerances and ensure quality. Steel studs are custom cut to length, minimizing waste, speeding manufacture and reducing costs.
“Our buildings are specially designed for Northwest climates, although we have shipped all over the United States,” Wellner says. Modular’s double-wall construction, standing-seam roofs and extra insulation create tight, energy-efficient spaces. Partition walls minimize condensation and provide a warm, inviting storage environment. Large commercial gutters and downspouts look great and keep customers dry. For some locations, Modular provides insulated sectional doors for exterior units. Kits also can be easily modified for heavy snow, wind or seismic loads.
Firewalls are included in every kit. Walls are pre-framed with steel studs on 2-foot centers or less, so the additional cost of firewalls is minimal. One layer of drywall is applied in the shop, and remaining materials are supplied with the building kit for installation in the field. Drywall for building fronts is precut to minimize fieldwork. In addition, the roof slope is built into the wall eliminating the need for roof trusses thus helping to reduce time and cost.
The security of a Modular Mini facility is enhanced by double-wall construction around each building’s perimeter and sturdy partition walls made with heavy-gauge steel studs, OSB (oriented strand board) shear diaphragms, and state-of-the-art, knurled fasteners. “There are more than 150 fasteners on a typical 10-foot wall section, and you need a sledgehammer to get them apart,” Wellner says. All fasteners are concealed to prevent injury to people or damage to property.
Diversity and Growth
Although self-storage buildings are its main focus, Modular also provides panelized kits for RV and boat storage, light-industrial flex space, office/residences and portable-storage modules. The company’s RVstorage buildings provide completely enclosed, individual units, complete with 24-gauge, sectional roll-up doors. Units often have electric door openers with their own security codes.
Some of Modular’s customers are including office/warehouse units in their mix and report they are very pleased with the results. “We believe this is a real growth opportunity for self-storage developers,” says Wellner. “These buildings can be located on smaller, less-visible sites. Developers spread their risk by appealing to contractors, small businesses, and companies needing a bit more warehouse space. Our buildings are particularly well-suited for this use. Our unique panelized design is very competitive with conventional red-iron buildings.”
The kit’s partition walls not only divide units, but provide the structure to support the roof. Office walls include door and window openings and are easily insulated. Firewalls are included as required, as well as standing-seam roofs, and 12-foot-wide by 14-foot-high doors. Three panelized office/residence kits are available, ranging from 1,500 to 1,800 square feet. All are two stories with the office and main living area on the first floor. On a typical project, the residence usually takes longer to finish because of the number of trades involved. However, Modular’s residence kits give customers a jumpstart by shortening overall construction time.
Portable-storage modules are designed to uniform building-code standards and, if necessary, are eligible for building permits. Floor systems use pressure-treated beams and joists and are designed for 125 pounds per square foot of floor loading. Roofs are standing-seam. When placed side by side, the units look like conventional self-storage buildings.
Providing Design Support
Modular provides more than just buildings. “We help customers with any area of the project where they need help,” Wellner says. “Many times, we’ll recommend an experienced contractor in their area, or visit the job site to help a new contractor get off to a good start.” The company works with its customers and their planning departments to develop the best possible site layout. This often involves zoning, storm-drainage, fire, water, wetland or other issues.
“It is gratifying to help folks new to our industry develop a successful project,” Wellner says. “They usually wind up with considerably more rentable space than they expected and a much more competitive facility. Many believe heated storage is a lot more expensive to build; but with our system, this just isn’t the case.”
Allworth and Wellner have extensive construction experience, enabling them to be involved in all aspects of the company. Allworth has worked in occupations from chef to commercial fisherman in Alaska. He has also traveled to Japan to assemble some of Modular’s custom homes. Wellner, who has master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, has also been involved in a range of occupations. These diverse backgrounds allowed the founders to develop a successful company serving the self-storage industry with a unique product.
For more information, call 503.692.3532, visit www.modularministorage.com.