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

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In some areas, fire and zoning regulations will specify the distance required between buildings. Typically, 25 feet is used for a self-storage facility. Toward the end of buildings, the driveway should be a little bit wider (30 feet is standard) to accommodate a minimum vehicle-turning radius. Avoid any driveway dead-ends except for areas that allow for snow removal and piling.

Unit Mix

Deciding on a unit mix can be one of the most difficult tasks you face during the development process, especially if you don’t know where to start. The mix is crucial to how a facility will perform within its marketplace. Because it’s so closely tied to market dynamics, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Start by gathering information in a feasibility study. The overall goal is to ensure a proper launching point relative to the market.

Ensuring your facility has the right commercial-to-residential ratio is also key. Most markets will have 75 percent residential to 25 percent commercial.

Climate Control

Considering whether your community has a need for climate-controlled units is important, as this is a growing demand. Climate control will add to your overall square footage, since most of these units are wider than traditional ones.

A simple plan would be to aim for 40 percent climate-controlled units to 60 percent traditional. Just keep in mind that mixing climate control with tradition will add expense, so obtain as much information about your market as possible to ensure cost-efficiency. Developers of smaller facilities sometimes choose to build 100 percent climate control, which raises the overall square footage.


There are several design factors that can help bolster facility security, including building placement. Using the height of your buildings as “fencing” around the perimeter of your property can increase security immensely. Since buildings are much taller than a traditional seven-foot fence, this fortress-style layout ensures most breaches will occur at entry and exit points. If this configuration isn’t possible, perimeter fencing is perfectly acceptable, though barbed or concertina wire usually aren’t tolerable to local municipalities. Spear-point fencing is a great alternative.

Interior elements are also important to ensure client safety. Here are some items to consider:

  • Incorporate seven- to 10-foot-wide hallways.
  • More doors and windows create a sense of security.
  • Straight hallways limit hiding places and reduce security risks.

Self-storage is a competitive industry, and facility design is playing an increasingly important role in business success and market differentiation. Though there are many other factors to consider, creating a unique architectural presence while maintaining efficiency, function and security will go a long way toward ensuring you build a standout facility.

Dakota Kerkove is marketing assistant for Precision Structural Engineering Inc., a Klamath Falls, Ore.-based structural engineering firm specializing in self-storage and shipping-container uses, as well as sustainable residential, commercial and industrial projects. For more information, call 541.850.6300; e-mail; visit www.structure1com.

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