According to Nelson Hendrix, district sales manager for DBCI, a manufacturer of steel roll-up doors and other components for the self-storage industry, anything that helps differentiate a facility will draw attention. This philosophy has led to an increase in conversions and the addition of drive-through buildings. "A big trend we're noticing is the conversion of existing buildings," Hendrix says. "Drive-through accessibility for sheltered loading/unloading is another popular feature that distinguishes properties."
The increase in demand for drive-through loading/unloading bays has completely changed the engineering process, Trepke says. "Engineering has changed dramatically as more buildings have internal drive-through/parking/loading areas requiring large expanses of structural steel.”
Keeping Current on Building Codes
Building codes are a particularly tricky issue to deal with throughout the construction process. While codes vary depending on the location, all states use or have adopted the International Building Code (IBC), a complete set of comprehensive, coordinated building-safety and fire-prevention codes. The majority of the difficulty in dealing with building codes is handled by builders/developers, although certain codes may affect costs and other factors of facility development.
For example, according to the IBC, self-storage facilities with four or more stories are now required to adhere to strict fire-proofing codes that will greatly increase the cost of the build. "Three floors is the max anymore unless you have an incredible market where you can afford to build a concrete structure," Plunkett says. "So it has actually changed the dynamics of self-storage such that it's forced us to build shorter facilities."
Wind- and snow-load requirements also need to be taken into consideration depending on the location of the facility. “The buildings are being built stronger now than they were in the past couple years because they have changed the codes on how these buildings are engineered to meet the wind loads and snow loads of each building,” says Eddie Huebner, lead account representative for A-Lert Building Systems, which designs, engineers, manufactures and installs self-storage buildings.
Energy Efficiency on the Horizon
In some areas, building codes have changed to encourage a more energy-efficient building. In regions where energy efficiency isn’t required, it’s certainly on the horizon. One way developers are adding eco-friendly services is through solar panels, particularly at single-story facilities with a lot of roof real estate or on boat and RV carports. The benefits are many. Operators can produce solar energy to cover their own electrical costs while attracting customers looking for green-friendly businesses. In some states, businesses that generate solar power can even sell their excess energy back to the power company and make a sizeable profit.
This facility in Glen Bernie, Md., features drive-through units on the first floor and insulated metal-wall panels. [Photos courtesy of Compass Building Systems Inc. Facility managed, but not owned, by Extra Space Storage.]