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Designing Self-Storage Projects: Reasons to Hire an Architect


By Kenneth K. Carrell

Before I get to the 101 uses for a dead architect, let’s discuss why you should use a live one to design your self-storage facility. One of the most common things I hear from property owners is, “Architects are too expensive. Why do I need to hire one?” Besides the obvious answer, which is architects need the money, there are a number of very good reasons to use an architect for the design of your project.

Maximized Building Area

To begin, an architect who specializes in self-storage design understands how to lay out a site to obtain the most efficient use of the land. On one of my earlier projects, an engineer had originally designed a self-storage facility to include 45,000 square feet of gross building area. After reviewing his plan, I discovered the site could actually provide a minimum of 65,000 square feet. Once redesigned by an architect, the project contained 72,000 square feet.

Solutions for Odd-Shaped Parcels

Owners often solicit assistance from companies that deal in the design and construction of steel buildings. These companies are great at developing rectangular sites, providing standard-size buildings and layouts at a reasonable cost. I’ve sometimes referred clients to these companies in the past because they would have spent too much on architectural services for such a straight, simple design.

However, companies that manufacture pre-fabricated structures don’t excel at creating customized designs. When a site has an odd-ball shape, rectangular buildings won’t cut the mustard. They tend to leave gaps between the property line and the back of the building that could be designed as usable space. When a site is an unusual shape, an architect can help you maximize the building area. Every square foot of unused property represents wasted money.


Something owners don’t always take into consideration is the exterior design of their self-storage facility. Jurisdictions sometimes want a really attractive project, and owners sometimes do, too. An architect can generally provide a more eye-catching project, which will help bring in more customers. One project I worked on included a tower element that was visible from about a half mile away. Customers were drawn to the facility before it was even finished, as they could see the tower from a long way off.

Building-Code Knowledge

The current building-code book has more than 1,300 pages of rules and regulations. Architects deal with building codes every day. An architect will spend a few hours examining the codes to determine how much building can go on the site, how tall the structures can be, etc. Trying to design a project without checking the codes can result in one that is too big, throwing off the pro forma. And that’s just one of many issues presented by building codes.

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