Existing commercial buildings are especially attractive to developers of self-storage facilities, primarily because investors know they can avoid spending unknown amounts of time and money to meet zoning regulations. Most existing structures have previously complied with zoning ordinances, indicating a second project on the same site can move quickly toward local approvals. Savings are further enhanced using new light-gauge framing designs to convert existing “big boxes” into multilevel storage facilities.
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Developers know that doubling the net rentable space of a storage facility significantly enhances the bottom line and cap rate value of a finished project. The quickest method of increasing the bottom line is reducing costs associated with getting a project up and running. This includes budgetary line items such as materials, installation labor and time. A light-gauge, structural mezzanine will double space while minimizing costs, making it a great option for conversions.
Engineered on a 10-foot span grid and designed for a 125-psf floor load, these new mezzanines can be added to an existing building without cutting into the existing concrete floor and pouring new footers every 10 feet. The light-gauge steel framing is designed to spread out the required loads on the existing concrete floor, utilizing a top and bottom track of adequate size and gauge to meet local codes. Eliminating cutting, bracing and pouring new footers saves money and, more important, construction time.
In addition, most mezzanine systems may qualify as re-locatable racking or storage systems, possibly making them eligible for accelerated depreciation. With increased cash flow from rentals, accelerated depreciation, lowered costs and faster completion times, light-gauge steel mezzanines make a lot of sense to self-storage investors.
Mezzanines offer two configuration options: full and island.
Depending on the owner’s preference, a full mezzanine system can be configured to fill an entire big-box building, or just a portion. An island mezzanine system is engineered to maximize the total number of rental units, requiring only an unobstructed, minimum eve height of 15 feet.
Island mezzanines utilize existing HVAC and lighting typically found in former department stores or warehouses. They can be joined with enclosed walkways and easily accessed by material lifts, providing convenient passage to every unit. Inexpensive modifications to the existing HVAC, fire sprinkler and lighting systems may be needed, but these costs are nominal compared to purchasing new.
Both the full- and island-mezzanine systems are quick and easy to install. Most manufacturers have certified installers available, but most contractors who’ve worked with light-gauge steel framing can do the work as well. Quick installation means the initial investment in a mezzanine system rapidly yields higher property values. Thus, the facility becomes more appealing to buyers of self-storage facilities.
To begin the process, a mezzanine manufacturer’s design engineer will prepare a preliminary unit mix layout based on the schematic designs of the existing building. The intent is to maximize the net rentable space, calculating the respective unit quantities based on national demographic averages.
Many contractors appreciate working with pre-engineered steel systems because the design work is completed by the mezzanine manufacturer. The contractor simply provides the engineers with the project’s parameters including height clearances, column spacing and access points. It’s then up to the manufacturer to design and create the mezzanine level, storage units, hallways and associated stairs. Life safety items, mechanicals and code-related items are all that remain in a simple mezzanine conversion.
The timing is right for re-engineering; light-gauge mezzanines provide the self-storage industry with easy access to increased rentals and profits. As urban areas spread into wall-to-wall buildings, and newly built self-storage facilities must move to the suburbs where land is affordable, consider the empty big-box you pass every day in your crowded community.
Would the location make a great storage site but the building is too small? Maybe it just needs a cost-efficient second level installed to meet the net-rentable space required for a successful venture. Let a nationwide mezzanine supplier show you the way.
Chip Cordes is vice president of U.S. Door & Building Components, an international supplier of self-storage components, rolling steel doors, wind-load certified doors, garage-storage and mezzanine systems. Services include engineering, design, bid take-off and unitmix layout. For more information, visit www.usdoor.com.