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The Elements of Self-Storage Style: Design Factors to Ensure Success


By Dakota Kerkove

From the outside looking in, self-storage facilities generally appear to have a straightforward, basic design. Single-story, steel-and-mason buildings make up most of the storage properties in the United States; but designing these structures is much more in-depth than it seems. Let’s take a deep dive into some important design elements and understand what it takes to create a successful project.

Incorporating Style

Most traditional self-storage facilities aren’t the greatest display of architectural genius. Square buildings that lack color and unique features span the nation, in part due to startup costs. Builders must consider their return on investment, and historically, budgets haven’t included much for attractive exteriors. This is changing, though, with designs that include bold colors or innovative materials. Here are some ways to add elements of style to your project:

  • Match the color of your buildings to those of surrounding structures.
  • Use bold colors.
  • Incorporate unique architectural features.
  • Build up! Multi-story facilities stand out.
  • Add glass through real or faux windows. It adds a nice touch.
  • Install lush landscaping.
  • Use masonry to add aesthetic appeal.

Municipal design and review committees now consider how your design integrates with existing buildings in the area. Keep in mind that a mix of aesthetics, function and cost will contribute to the success of your project. Incorporating some of the options above will put you well on your way toward being approved for construction.

Layout Essentials

When you seek to get approval for a self-storage development, there will typically be competing uses proposed for the same land. Demonstrating that you’ll maximize the potential of the parcel will put you one step closer to your goal. To maximize use, you must balance rental space, customer convenience and ease of maintenance.

There are several factors to consider when designing your facility layout, with building size and driveway widths being among the most important. Typically, you’ll want to design buildings in 10-foot increments, simply because steel is manufactured in 10-foot lengths. This will enable you to create the most cost-efficient project.

Generally, a 30-foot-wide building will provide options for a variety of unit sizes. If you don’t have that much area available, you can develop a 20-foot-wide building, though this can cost more per square foot to build. There are also options for larger buildings at 40-foot widths, though these will only provide a balanced layout if you’re planning to incorporate 10-by-20-foot units back to back.

Though 30- to 40-foot-wide buildings with exterior drive-up access are efficient and offer a great unit mix, it’s becoming more common to build 100-foot-wide buildings with interior hallways. As long as you provide tenants with handcarts and dollies, most won’t object to renting your interior units; and you’ll ultimately spend less on driveways and general construction.

Where land is costly or scarce, it makes sense to build multi-story. If you commit to a multi-level design, however, consider raising it to at least three stories.

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