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Self-Storage Development in Canada: Codes, Misconceptions and Climate Present Challenges

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Meeting Aesthetic Expectations

Developers often need to prove that a modern self-storage facility can be built as an attractive, positive contribution to the community. “I find that self-storage has a bit of a bad reputation, although that is thankfully changing,” Sterling says. On a recent project, her local authority advised her that the site needed to look like the “Taj Mahal” or it wouldn’t be approved, despite the fact that warehousing was a permitted use within the zoning bylaw.

“You can't fault the local authority, as they were just doing their very best to maintain a high development standard,” Sterling says. “We also knew what we wanted to build, and while it may not quite have been fabricated from marble and gold, we knew it was going to look really sharp when it was done.”

Due to the local authorities' preconception of self-storage, it took a lot of communication to demonstrate and prove the development was worthy of the retail location, Sterling says. “We got there eventually. The disparity between what local authorities think of self-storage facilities and the reality of these new third- and fourth-generation self-storage centers can be quite large, so extra communication is an absolutely essential ingredient when working on permitting.”

StoreSmart’s buildings feature stone-veneer wainscoting, which adds curb appeal. Buildings visible from the road have higher pitched roofs and dormers. Additionally, the office features an attractive and functional overhang. Eye-catching landscaping completes the welcoming overall look and feel of the site.

Weather Woes

An additional consideration when building self-storage in Canada is how to deal with snow. Snow loads must be met, but it’s also important to plan for snow removal and storage. Orienting buildings to face north and south, avoiding north-facing doors, allows the sun to aid in melting snow and ice in drive aisles. Sites should be designed with an open area for piling plowed snow. Low-pitched roofs allow snow to melt slowly, rather than slide off into a pile in front of a unit. When low-pitched roofs are not an option, snow blocks can help.

It’s important to work with your local inspectors to build a self-storage facility that fits your financial plans while meeting local codes. At times, that may mean tactfully educating them on building trends and techniques used elsewhere. Construction and development costs can vary greatly depending on how codes are interpreted, so be ready for anything.

Steve Hajewski is the marketing manager for Trachte Building Systems, a CSA A660-04-certified manufacturer of self-storage buildings with local builders throughout Canada, including French-speaking representation in Quebec. For more information, call 800.356.5824; e-mail; visit

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