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Building a Multi-Story Self-Storage Project: Factors to Consider

Charles Plunkett Comments
Continued from page 1

Assessing the Location
Once you’ve determined you have a good market for self-storage, you need to evaluate site factors such as visibility, accessibility and constructability.

Visibility. First, you must evaluate how prospects will see the building. Based on this, the building orientation and presentation become more obvious. A multi-story project can serve as its own signage thanks to its height. It can sometimes be seen over other buildings, and you can consider adding signage to the building itself. Many projects have large windows showing storage-unit doors. When lit at night, this area becomes great signage and immediately helps people identify with your project.

Accessibility. The need for accessibility is no different for a multi-story project than any storage development. Once customers know the facility is there, they need to be able to get to it easily. Make sure there is no property in a more desirable location in that area or en route to your facility, as this can effectively cut you off from the customer.

Constructability. The last basic issue is constructability, which relates to several factors: where you place the building on the site, building orientation, the slope of the property, issues of access, etc. These issues will be unique for each property. 
Construction Factors

The property’s visibility, size and required square footage will help you determine how tall the building should be. Keep in mind that with each story you add, the project’s overall cost per square foot increases.

The combined weight of the structure and stored items accrues with each level and transfers to the floors beneath. The lower floors must be made stronger to support those above. There are additional factors to consider such as wind load (the force of wind acting on the building) and seismic loads for earthquake zones. In addition, it’s more expensive to work in the air than on the ground, and each ensuing level compounds this issue.

If you have a site with a large slope, it’s possible to use it to your benefit. For example, if you have enough room to create a driveway all the way around the building, you could construct a two-story, split-level building. This means you can enter the lower level of the building on one side and the upper level from the other, possibly eliminating the need and cost of elevators, elevator shafts and stairs. Though this design will require retaining walls and water proofing, it can still result in an overall cost savings.

The tallest facility you can build practically for self-storage is four stories above ground. Based on the occupancy classification for self-storage, anything higher than four stories has to be a fire-rated structure. Therefore, if you want to build a six-story building, the two first floors have to be a different type of construction, with a horizontal, fire-rated floor system separating the second floor from the ones above it. The other option is to fire rate the entire structure.

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