4 Considerations in Building Climate-Controlled Self-Storage

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By Angie Guerin

Over the last several years, climate-controlled units have become a staple in new self-storage developments. While this feature may not work in every rental market, tenants are asking for it, and the demand is driving construction plans.

Climate control is enticing to customers who want to preserve sensitive and valuable goods. They’re looking for storage facilities that monitor and control humidity and temperature settings, and they’re willing to pay a premium for this type of space.

The addition of climate control also appeals to self-storage developers and owners because it offers a way to increase revenue. Climate-controlled units typically command higher rental rates than traditional self-storage. In some markets, this could be 30 percent or more.

Construction of climate-controlled storage does have its own set of nuances, however. Here are three things to keep in mind when developing this type of space.

Layout

Units need to be accessible via short corridors. Metal buildings, by nature, are not air tight at exterior walls. When you consider that most self-storage exterior walls contain long rows of metal doors, the problem with containing heat or cooling grows exponentially. Plan your building so it’s at least 40 feet wide (preferably wider), and design it with a corridor system and interior wall that can be fully insulated. 

Consider travel distance in your corridors—how far a customer needs to walk to get to his unit from the building’s entrance. It’s typically no more than 150 feet. When designing climate-controlled storage, keep in mind it can be discouraging for tenants to have to haul heavy objects a long way. Incorporating entrances near the climate-controlled areas will minimize the distance tenants must travel.

Also, most temperature-controlled units tend to be 10-by-15 or smaller. If a prospective renter is looking for a 10-by-20 or larger unit, it’s usually because he has more belongings to store—and moving it all will take longer. Traversing through a non-climate-controlled corridor with a large volume of furniture, boxes and miscellaneous household goods can be cumbersome and unpleasant.

Insulation

Work with an architect and mechanical engineer to determine the amount of insulation required. Remember, this is non-occupied space. The industry standard range for climate-controlled storage is between 50 and 90 degrees.

In the past, most climate-controlled storage in the United States used a 6-inch roof insulation (R19) and a 4-inch wall insulation (R13). However, as of July 2013, the International Energy Conservation Council (IECC) upped the ante in many locations, requiring more insulation to better preserve energy.

When budgeting for your climate-controlled construction, consult an expert with experience in insulating self-storage. You’ll also need to budget for contingencies in case you’re required to build your facility with a higher R-value.

Cost

For the most part, the costs to construct climate-controlled storage are similar to those of traditional storage, however, there are a few budget considerations that are unique. The steel-building costs, including the framing, roofing, siding, insulation, partitions and doors, typically range from $10 to $13 per square foot for each building. Climate-controlled turnkey development ranges from $35 to $45 per square foot.

Keep in mind you’ll likely also need to hire consultants who may not be necessary when building traditional storage. These might include an architect to assist with energy calculations and a mechanical and electrical engineer. IECC energy codes can have a significant impact on the budget, depending on how they’re interpreted at a local level. Hiring experienced consultants to help you through the process can save you time and money.

Despite the changes to standard practices regarding construction and insulation, climate-controlled storage continues to be sought after by customers and developers alike. While it’s more expensive to build and has a few unique characteristics, climate-controlled storage can be a great asset to a project and, ultimately, provide a better return on cash.

Angie Guerin is the national sales manager at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Mako Steel Inc., which designs, supplies and installs steel buildings for the self-storage industry. She has worked in the industry for more than 14 years, assisting developers and contractors with their steel-building needs. For more information, call 800.383.4932; visit www.makosteel.com.

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