By Matt DePrato
Every self-storage development project is different, each needing varying amounts of attention from the members of the construction team. To get your project to the finish line, it’s important to assemble an efficient crew. Here are some people you’ll want to hire to ensure success.
For most projects, one of the first members to join your team will be an engineer. He’ll assist with various aspects, beginning with land-development approvals. Selecting an engineer who’s familiar with your municipality will prove to be beneficial, as some local governments be difficult to navigate. An engineer who’s friendly with the planning-commission staff and understands the process can help with timing, costs, etc.
Another important consideration is whether the engineer has experience with self-storage. While these projects aren’t typically complicated, they do carry unique aspects. Hiring an engineer who’s familiar with the use can save you headaches throughout the development process. A qualified professional will be an integral part of your team, helping to lead the charge and get your project off the ground.
Another crucial member of your construction team is your architect, who’s often the backbone of the entire project. He’ll design the facility structure and layout, and provide base plans for all of your subcontractors. For this reason, it’s crucial that he have industry experience. If not, you may end up with an overdesigned facility or one that doesn’t function well. Make sure your architect is familiar with your particular design. For instance, has he designed a multi-story facility before, or a conversion project?
As with your engineer, finding an architect who’s acquainted with your municipality can be a plus. Having a familiar stamp on plans during the code-review process may help move the project along faster.
Finally, the architect’s work shouldn’t come to an end upon plan approval. He should be a resource throughout the entire construction process, especially during inspections and times when your contractors have questions regarding the layout.
Your next step in assembling a team is to identify each of the trades or subcontractors you’ll need during the construction process. For example, which mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractors will handle all of the inner workings of the buildings?
Due to the complexity of these trades, it’s generally wise to hire a general contractor (GC) or construction manager (CM) who can orchestrate the entire team and process. You can handle this role on your own, but it does require significant construction knowledge, a lot of free time, and a ton of patience to navigate the procedure and deal with the daily nuances of building. An experienced GC or CM can alleviate these concerns for you.
When hiring a GC or CM, it’s absolutely imperative that he have experience in building self-storage facilities. He should be willing to work with the engineer and architect you’ve chosen or be able to introduce you to his own network of suppliers and subcontractors. His relationships may even save you time and headache of assembling a team on your own.
Also, ask him about a preconstruction-services agreement. Similar to due diligence in an acquisition, such an arrangement can save you from entering into a full construction contract too early and will allow him to provide you with important information related to the project. He’ll work on designs, build a budget and develop a timeline.
If you decide to manage the project on your own, you’ll need to select your own steel supplier and MEP contractors. When choosing a metal-building supplier, consider these questions, which will help you narrow the selection:
- Has the company built multi-story facilities?
- Has it worked with over/under buildings?
- Does it provide a complete package or only handle structural steel?
- Does it provide labor for steel erection or only materials?
- What’s its lead time on supplying steel?
- Does it provide full permit drawings or just “shop” drawings for the erection crew?
- What are its lead times on drawings for permit submission?
When it comes to choosing your MEP contractors, again, it’s helpful to find ones that are familiar with self-storage. Because storage properties aren’t typically heated and cooled like other types of real estate, a regular commercial mechanical contractor may not be the right fit. Or you may end up spending too much time walking them through the layout and design process. If your MEP contractors can’t provide you with permit drawings, it may prove timely and costly to have them produced by a third party. The more familiar the MEP contractors are with self-storage, the better off you’ll be.
Construction on any level can be daunting. Do your research and then some. If you’re assembling your own team, obtain proposals from different companies for each of the necessary components. Ask for referrals and call them. Ask to see their work and visit completed projects. If you have any hesitations at any point during the process, reach out to the GC or CM. The success of your project depends on the efficiency of the team you select.
Matt DePrato is the senior project manager for Storage Construction, a construction-management company specializing in self-storage. He’s been involved in the acquisition, development, construction and operation of self-storage facilities for more than 11 years. The Storage Construction team has built more than 50 self-storage facilities over the past 20 years, including single-story, multi-story and redevelopment projects. For more information, call 844.287.3389; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.storageconstruction.com.