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Building On Up: Important Factors to Consider for Multi-Story Self-Storage Developments

By Steve Hajewski Comments
Continued from page 1

The standard and most economical material for exterior walls is corrugated steel, but developers are raising the bar of modern self-storage design. Insulated panels, brick, and fiber-cement panels with either a brick or wood appearance dress up many projects. For structures in which unit doors wouldn’t normally be visible, large windows designed to showcase doors within a hallway can help make the business instantly recognizable. Towers, parapet walls, and indoor loading areas have become increasingly common features used to increase the appeal.

Multi-story buildings are significantly more complex than traditional single-story structures. Accordingly, they’ll take longer to design, permit and build. An architect with self-storage experience can be an important member of your development team, helping to speed up the design process and bringing together ideas for serious curb appeal.

Design for Accessibility

With the exception of two-story-into-a-hill structures, multi-story buildings typically include one or two elevators. Having two will reduce wait times for tenants during busy days, but more important, the extra lift also serves as a backup in case of mechanical problems. These should be located near a main entrance or, if possible, a canopy or loading dock. Automatic sliding doors are increasingly common for main entrances. Carts should be available for client use.

If the building includes an office, the ideal location is usually within eyesight of the loading dock but accessible from outside any secured area. Some properties include a conference room for tenants to use, which is an attractive perk for commercial customers. During the design phase, consider leaving space for an automated kiosk, which can be beneficial in renting units and processing payments after hours, particularly in urban or college markets.

Dino’s Storage in Omaha, Neb., includes four floors of storage.Safety Concerns

Building codes vary, but at a minimum, expect to install sprinklers or firewalls in any project beyond 12,000 square feet. In multi-story, sprinklers are common. Include them in your budget and investigate if the water supply to the property is sufficient to serve them.

The upper levels of multi-story buildings most commonly consist of a steel deck pan filled with concrete. Simple steel decking has been used; however, there’s a risk of having liquid spills from upper floors drip into lower units, resulting in an uncomfortably loud property. One option is to use a pre-finished resin composite, which can be laid over steel decking.

Operational Impact

Multi-story properties with interior-access units often employ two managers to keep up with the operational demands. Halls and restrooms will need regular cleaning. Offering temperature- or climate-controlled units also means more mechanical equipment to maintain.

Though multi-story projects aren’t the answer for every market, they are an increasingly common segment of the maturing self-storage industry. They require more planning, more capital and more time to develop. However, in the right market and location, they can be the best option to maximize rentable area.

Steve Hajewski is marketing manager at Trachte Building Systems, which designs, manufactures and erects a full line of pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems, including single- and multi-story, portable storage, interior partition and corridor, and canopy boat/RV. He also owns a self-storage facility in Wisconsin and is a frequent contributor on Self-Storage Talk, the industry's largest online community. For more information, call 800.356.5824; visit

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