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Improving Your Self-Storage Building Envelope to Increase Energy Efficiency and Save Money

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One way to slow that down is to use a flexible air dam like they use in grocery stores. This will create a wall that will mitigate the loss. The other option is to build an insulated wall between the outside and interior units. Unfortunately, any unit that’s accessed from the outside isn’t conditioned, but it’s a small price to pay to keep your conditioned space.


Of course, the roof in a self-storage facility loses the most energy. You have a large expanse of thin sheet metal that radiates energy into the sky, so insulating it should be your top priority. Even in mild climates, there are benefits to insulating the roof. With the roof protected, the heat gain and loss will be slowed significantly.

The best method of insulating the roof is to use spray-on foam insulation like Icynene. Spray foam not only provides better and higher R-value insulation to the building, it fastens openings to give the building a more air-tight seal. You can always use standard batt or foam-board insulation. While its not cutting-edge technology, a little old-fashioned insulation can fit the bill.


The floor is another surface that can use energy. If your facility is in a cold climate and your building isn’t heated, the ground underneath could freeze, which could make for a very cold environment. While heating the building could be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. A storage facility only has to be kept in the low 50s, so a lot of heat isn’t necessary. And there are a number of ways to generate heat without significant cost, such as solar panels.


Lighting costs can also be significant. If a customer forgets to turn off the lights in a hallway and no one checks, they could burn all day, wasting a large amount of money. A simple fix is to install timers or motion-sensor switches for all the lights. If you use motion sensors, however, make sure you cover all the hallways. You don’t want a customer who is in his unit to be trapped in a dark hallway when he leaves.

Another way to illuminate a building is to use natural light. Using a window or skylight can reduce your electricity costs. A storage building will need dual or triple glazing for windows and skylights to comply with current codes; but customers won’t need to use the lights as often, and it will give the facility a better appearance and overall appeal.

Other than land costs, the building envelope is the most expensive part of a self-storage project at the beginning. However, on-going energy costs will quickly overshadow the building costs. By designing a highly efficient building envelope at the start of development, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Kenneth Carrell is the principal architect at ARE Associates in Lake Forest, Calif., an award-winning architectural firm specializing in the self-storage industry. For more information, call 949.305.4752; visit .

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