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An Overview of Today's Self-Storage Building Trends

By Amy Campbell Comments

Trends come and go, and this is especially true in the development and construction of self-storage facilities. Think back to when the industry was dominated by single-story buildings sprawled over large tracts of open land, when climate control was a luxury rather than a standard, and buildings retained their industrial look. Today’s projects involve multi-story site plans, climate control, modern materials, retail-style designs, conversions and other innovations. Here’s a brief look at some of these modern approaches to storage.

Better Design and Greater Services

As land costs increase and prime development sites dwindle, many self-storage developers are “going vertical” to create more rentable square footage. “Multi-story buildings are becoming more popular each year,” says Terry Campbell, executive vice president of operations and vice president of sales and marketing for BETCO Inc., a self-storage building manufacturer. “In order to make the numbers work, you have to get as much rentable square footage on that site as possible, which means the building must go up.”

Builders are also experimenting with new design materials and applications to make facilities stand out. This includes the addition of color and texture as well as the incorporation of architectural elements such as cupolas, canopies, brick veneer and pitched roofs. In some cases, various metal panels, materials and styles are alternated in bands or other patterns to achieve a unique look.

Innovative design concepts are also being carried into office, the hub of the property. Reception areas are becoming larger, with higher ceilings and big windows to allow in natural light. They emulate retail stores, with products artfully displayed on walls and in cases. Often a decorative concrete floor is installed for aesthetics and easy maintenance.

Self-storage owners are also exploring ways to diversify their property, says Wayne Woolsey, a principal for self-storage builder Kiwi II Construction Inc. This might includes the addition of a special feature, for example, solar canopies above the vehicle parking. Or it might come in the form of a mixed-use project in which a separate but kindred businesses exist alongside the self-storage operation.

Code Conformity

As building codes evolve and call for more efficient structures, storage developers have responded in creative ways. “With increased energy-code requirements, we’re using more insulated exterior-wall panels,” notes Woolsey.

BETCO is also reacting to code changes. “A climate-controlled building nowadays is a much different animal that it was five years ago,” says Campbell. Developers are packing extra insulation in the roof and walls and even in the concrete slab in some cases.

Other notable changes have been made to the codes for fire ratings, according to Woolsey. In some municipalities, stricter codes require sprinklers and building materials with a higher fire rating. For example, facilities with four or more stories are now required to adhere to strict fire-proofing codes.

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