Taking a Cue From the Past to Build the Future of Self-Storage

L. Bruce McCardle Comments
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Hire an industry professional. Ask for a comprehensive demographic study and pro forma. It’s surprising that clients who invest $3 million in a self-storage facility balk at a few thousand dollars to obtain this vital market data. It’s not just about whether the site is financially feasible, but also about getting a better handle on unit sizes, rates and amenities in a particular market.

Hire an architect, engineer or design-build general contractor who is experienced with self-storage. We have many good ones who work in our industry and this is not the place to save money. An experienced design professional can help you avoid costly mistakes particular to our business. There is value in working with experience!

Get your building supplier involved early in the process. Any major or reliable supplier will gladly be involved with your architect or contractor during the planning stages. These professionals can provide standard details, connections and material specifications generic to the industry. They can ensure the unit layout coordinates with the most efficient framing layout. Plus, they’ll suggest collateral architectural materials that work most economically with their building systems and add aesthetics in areas that are visible, or where they may be required by local codes or ordinances. Your building supplier can also consult with the mechanical and electrical subcontractors on the best places to locate equipment, duct work, lighting and fire sprinkler systems.

Don’t let a building “salesman” lay out your facility based on templates or “canned” designs. The obvious goal is to get as much rentable square footage as possible on a site, regardless of your particular market needs or site requirements. An experienced construction professional should be asking about the topography of a site and where the retention area will be located based on the natural drainage flow. You’ll end up moving a lot of dirt if your buildings block the natural flow.

The person doing the layout needs to know required setbacks, easements and wetlands. They will determine where the most advantageous access and egress are to the facility; where the office will be most visible; what types of businesses or structures will abut your property, and will it be best to be visible or protected from them. These are important considerations that are difficult to determine by someone in an office several hundred miles away.

Involve the security system provider during the planning stages. Underground requirements, electrical power requirements and computer and monitor locations must be coordinated. I have been on several sites where new pavement or concrete was torn up because the security company was brought in late in the game. Don’t let this happen to your project.

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