By Rachel Adams
Embarking on a new build in the self-storage industry is a huge step that takes time, planning, preparation and, often, a lot of guidance. With the U.S. economy experiencing steady growth, it's no surprise most areas in the country are heating up in terms of construction, which is enticing for industry professionals looking to expand or build for the first time. Changes in the market, however, can also lead to changes in costs and other aspects of the construction arena, which makes it more important than ever for owners to stay informed.
In this article, some of the top builders in self-storage reveal inside information about materials, construction costs, trends and engineering processes to put facility owners and investors in the best possible position before building their next project.
The Price Is Right
Materials are among the most basic components when it comes to building a new facility, but they can also be the most influential when it comes to pricing. The general consensus among builders is the costs for raw materials has remained fairly level, with price increases in insulation and doors. “Raw materials have been pretty flat over the past year, though insulation just experienced a 9 percent increase," said Todd Trepke, vice president of Compass Building Systems Inc., a full-service supplier and erector of self-storage buildings.
Although prices have been stable, there could be an uptick soon on materials and labor, according to Charles Plunkett, chief executive officer and owner of Capco Steel Inc., a steel supplier and erector of metal buildings and RV and boat storage. "We are on the cusp of seeing price increases," he says. "As things get busy, costs always get more expensive. If you're in a part of the country where construction is heating up, you can expect your costs to go up."
When it comes to design or engineering processes, one of the best things about self-storage is its simplicity. "Regardless of how the exterior of any of these buildings look, you could open them up and see the same design principles at work in 90 percent of the facilities today," says Caesar Wright, president of Mako Steel Inc., which designs, supplies and installs steel buildings for the self-storage industry. This, however, doesn’t keep owners and builders from getting creative and finding new ways to attract tenants.
For example, Plunkett has been pumping up facility façades by using traditional materials in non-traditional ways. In a recent build, glazed cinder blocks were used as the exterior finish, along with aluminum panels to give the facility a colorful and unique look that will never fade or require paint. “They used materials that have been around a long time and were used for a long time, but they took it up a notch," Plunkett says. “The flat, aluminum panels were something we hadn't really done before. The glazed masonry was certainly something we hadn't done before. So these were traditional products, but one that have not been used this way in self-storage.”
Finishing touches to the mansard roof and decorative louvers were made to a facility in Mclean, Va., before the brick and exterior insulation finishing systems were installed. The facility also has a rooftop garden. [Photos courtesy of Compass Building Systems Inc. Facility managed, but not owned, by Extra Space Storage.]