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Factors to Consider When Building Multi-Story Self-Storage


By Charles Plunkett

When contemplating development of a multi-story facility, there are many factors to carefully consider. This article explores some of these factors as well as the benefits of a multi-story structure.

There are many reasons building a multi-story facility can be a tremendous and rewarding option for a self-storage owner. In many urban areas, land may be in short supply or a developer may not be able to put together a large enough parcel to construct a traditional single-story facility. The cost of land in some areas may simply make it prohibitive to purchase enough property. In addition, there are situations where going vertical is a matter of helping your facility be more visible in a sea of larger buildings.

One of the first things that must be considered is how to be efficient in your design. Some design considerations include:

  • Where is the property located?
  • What is the visibility exposure?
  • What is the shape of the land?
  • What is the traffic flow?

The size of your building should always be dictated by two important factors: How many square feet you want to place in this market and what the unit mix should be. Maximizing the efficiency of the building footprint is seemingly an exercise in reverse. First, determine the amount of square footage and the unit mix, and then you can begin to layout various versions of the structure on the available property and see how it best fits.

This exercise is tempered by many elements. What are your mandated setback requirements for the front, side and rear yards? In addition, many cities have special requirements for landscaping, which can include buffer zones or the placement of trees for parking-lot shading. There can be easements or encumbrances on the property that further restrict the area where you’re able to build. You also need to consider the driveway around the building, parking requirements, areas designated for unloading at the elevator lobby, fire-lane access, customer parking, any required special features, and other pertinent items.

3009 Self Storage in Schertz, Texas shows how developers can maximize site layout with available land and use the building for signage. The doors are visible through the glass windows.Another item to consider is the topography of the land. If you have a piece of property that has a lot of slope, you might consider a split-level loaded building. This means tenants will enter the first floor on one level, and drive up or down to the next level and enter from the opposite side. If you’re constructing a two-story building, this can possibly eliminate the need for elevators or stairs, an important factor since an elevator typically costs in the neighborhood of $100,000 when all is said and done. In addition, this design can save the rentable space required for these elements.

Determine all your necessary design requirements, place them on the site plan, and see what you have left. Needless to say, completing a properly designed site plan can be an overwhelming task. This process should involve the services of specialists. Your team may include architects, civil engineers and others who are highly versed in the development process.

Climate Control and Square Footage

Certainly a major factor to be considered is the amount of the facility that should be climate-controlled vs. ambient. Most multi-story facilities are climate-controlled in the interior portion of the first level and on all upper levels.

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