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Building Self-Storage: Creating a Harmonious Design Team

Donna May Comments
Continued from page 3

Doors. Door and hallway systems’ color, sheen and style radiate the personality of the store. Doors, gates and elevators are the project’s only moving parts. Great care should be taken in selection and installation of all noticeable elements.

Drives. Drives, particularly turning radiuses, have to be of sufficient quality to support the intended use. Soil and weather conditions affect material composition and cost. Often a combination of asphalt and concrete is used to achieve the most cost-effective quality product.

Roof. Standing-seam or screw-down roofs are usually used on metal buildings. It is not the type of roof chosen, however, that is most important. It is how it is installed. Leaks typically appear at some type of transition, either at a vent, hatch, around an elevator shaft, or at a step-down or parapet wall. At each of these transitions where a horizontal surface meets a vertical surface, where metal meets metal, a good design and proper use of sealants is imperative.

Sealants. Quality painting and concrete floor sealing are completely dependent on the products used. Floor sealants should be at least 22 percent solids. Paint, particularly over block or any permeable surface, has to be applied full strength over the appropriate sealant with at least two coats.

HVAC. Different climates require different HVAC systems. Tonnage has to be appropriate for the space being conditioned. The distribution system, including types of vents and fans, must be considered. The importance of humidity control should be a factor in air-conditioning unit selection. Electricity is a significant operational cost. It is just as wrong to have too much HVAC as it is to have too little. Units must also be properly maintained, and the subcontractor/general contractor should ensure maintenance and warranty information is passed on to the client.

Lighting. Lighting is also an ongoing operational expense. Design and materials should be as cost-effective as possible. Replacement parts, including bulbs and ballasts, are specific to the system installed.

Fire Protection. Fire-safety systems are usually dictated by the local fire authority. They may be seemingly excessive or absent, and may be costly. Separation fire walls or a combination of fire walls and sprinkler systems are usually necessary for codes.

The Final Performance

Owner or general contractor preference is the determining factor in many of the remaining components of construction. The number of options in insulation, exterior coatings and building accents has grown phenomenally. The key in incorporating these products on the project is to be certain that transitions from one type of material to another are done carefully and have no potential to leak. Attention to detail by everyone working on the jobsite is crucial.

For a truly collaborative project, the developer determines the melody, the design team writes the notes, and the general contractor assembles and conducts the orchestra. Only through contribution, communication and cooperation is beautiful music—and the perfect self-storage song—possible. But once completed, it will likely receive rave reviews for years to come.

Donna May is the president of Cross Metal Buildings, a member of the Parham Group, which specializes in self-storage development, construction and education. She is a real estate broker and has been a partner in 11 start-up self-storage facilities. She is also a contributing writer for the Parham Group website,  For more information, call 210.477.1260; visit

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