Value Engineering for Self-Storage: How to Achieve a Top-Dollar Look and Durability Without Breaking the Bank

Discover how value engineering can help a self-storage owner or builder save money with clever design choices while still creating an eye-catching facility. From exterior materials to interior finishes, learn valuable tips to keep your project on budget without sacrificing style.

Matt DePrato

May 18, 2024

4 Min Read

When creativity meets self-storage development, the result is an exceptional facility design that converts a vision into a stunning reality. However, if the architect, owner and contractor don’t share that vision, the would-be masterpiece can quickly become a burden that drains time, money and resources. 

When we apply a design-build process to a self-storage facility, it’s constructed with the builders, the owners, the expense and the end users in mind. We refer to this as value engineering, which means we collaborate to figure out clever strategies that’ll enable the project to achieve its goals while costing the least amount possible in the long run. This article shares several simple but crucial recommendations that can help you keep your new build on budget without sacrificing visual appeal. 

Exterior Strategies 

Consider your visible exposure. Spend money where the results can be seen. If your self-storage facility will have façades that face trees or open fields or are otherwise not visible from the street, don’t worry about upgrading them. Focus instead on building components with the most public exposure. 

That said, be aware of zoning jurisdictions that require specific façade treatments. Some local governments require that your facility look like a hotel, blend in with the retail streetscape or resemble a single-story facility, even if it’s multi-story. 

Choose materials that make sense. There are plenty of cost-effective choices available for the exterior of a self-storage building, but some are more economical than others while still being attractive. For example, you might use metal panels on the façade instead of masonry. These corrugated or ribbed sheets come in a variety of profiles and can provide an aesthetically pleasing look with variations in color and texture. Fewer components are needed to apply them, which reduces installation time, accelerates overall construction speed and lowers labor costs. On the other hand, masonry systems require multi-layered components and treatments, like water-resistant barriers and applications, that can add a lot of time and expense. 

Be mindful of building height. The standard minimum building height for single-story self-storage structures is 8 feet, 4 inches, measured from the finished floor elevation to the lowest eave. Anything taller than this is likely unnecessary unless you’re building climate-controlled storage or extra-large units intended for boat/RV storage or commercial contractors. A taller building will mean more materials, which can significantly increase your costs.  

Explore budget-conscious roof options. Another wise design choice for self-storage is to stick with a standing-seam metal roof. Roof designs that use asphalt shingles, rubber or thermoplastic polyolefin, can add cost and require additional components such as decking, ISO (polyisocyanurate) boards and drainage crickets. This is especially true if your structure is large, like a temperature-controlled building,  

Also, the taller the pitch, the more likely your roof will be seen by customers from the ground, which means its appearance is more important. Stick to a low pitch, which gives you more flexibility from an aesthetic point of view. 

You may want to avoid fancy roof features like parapets, mansards and hip roofs, which introduce framing and other costly challenges. For example, parapets on the low side of the roof can create drainage issues, especially for standing-seam roofs; plus, you’ll need an overbuild roof, which adds additional framing and other costs. 

Interior Strategies  

There are cost-saving strategies that can be applied to the interior of your self-storage facility as well. Here are a few budget-friendly options: 

Keep your hallways open up top. Open hallway ceilings will make your facility feel more spacious while cutting down on construction costs. Installing ceiling panels, soffit ceilings or drop ceilings is expensive and can add time and complications to mechanical runs like HVAC ducting, sprinkler pipes and lighting. 

Stick with concrete flooring. There’s no need for carpeting or epoxy finishes in self-storage hallways, which see a lot of traffic and experience significant wear. Leaving the concrete exposed and applying a sealant is much more affordable than eventually paying to clean or replace another floor covering.  

Keep it bright. Choose white for interior hallways, as it’ll reflect light well and brighten the overall structure. This will ultimately reduce or eliminate the need to install additional light fixtures inside the storage units. In addition, some colors may carry an upcharge, so it’s best to avoid that expense. 

Keep the lighting simple. For the hallways, consider 8-foot LED strip lights with built-in motion detectors, which can reduce the cost for wiring and installation. Anything beyond this will increase your cost.  

These are just a few examples of the kinds of strategies that can be incorporated into the self-storage design-build process. By exploring these and other value-engineering tactics, you can improve your construction process and bottom line. 

Matt DePrato is the vice president of preconstruction and development at York, Pennsylvania-based Storage Construction, which provides design/build, pre-construction and construction-management services for self-storage projects. With nearly 20 years of industry experience, Matt has also overseen the operation of company affiliate Automated Security, a national security-integration company. To reach him, email [email protected]. 

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