Building Modernizations

September 1, 2004

6 Min Read
Building Modernizations

Building Modernizations

Options to upgrade any storage facility

By Doug Carner

Your storage facility has an establishedcommunity presence and is nearly full. So why should you care aboutmodernization? It makes financial sense. Upgrading is a capital investment thatoptimizes the value of a facility and reduces operating expenses whileincreasing income and improving your marketing advantage. If your facility isearning less than $200 per unit per year in bottom-line profit, it is time torenovate and raise your rents. Even if you already receive a healthy return onyour investment, you can increase revenues by incorporating a few simpleupgrades.

Self-Service Kiosks

The most important upgrade is also the most frequentlyignored: the enhancement of the customer-service experience. Improvingtenant convenience is the ultimate facility upgrade. There are a few simplemodernizations that can produce an amazing effect on your bottom line.

The most desirable customer-service upgrade is the addition ofan automated attendant, or kiosk, which has become a welcome part of everydaylife, from the bank ATM to the state-lottery terminal. Hundreds of kiosks are inactive service at storage facilities nationwide. The newest models are designed for outdoor use and greetcustomers before they enter your facility.

A kiosk can handle the entire move-in process, including therental contract, tenant insurance, payment collection, assigning a gate code anddispensing a door lock. Most models even accept cash. Small storage locationscan install a kiosk in lieu of hiring a resident manager. Larger facilities cansupplement their labor with these 24/7 sentinels of customer service. A goodkiosk system should cost less than $7 a day.

Curb Appeal

Now lets consider your facilitys curb appeal. Since you see your business every day, seek the opinion offresh eyes. Ask a friend or a realtor what kind of first impression yourbusiness makes. If the facility looks outdated or dark, think about adding afresh coat of paint and colorful trim. A simple rain awning above your frontageunits can add color and impact.

Consider adding a nice facade to the exterior of your rentaloffice. Although this will not increase your usable square footage, itwill present visual pizzazz that entices drivers to notice you. Make thisfrontage part of your marketing efforts by adding a sign, but use a minimalistapproach to avoid a cluttered appearance. If your sign cannot be seen from themain road, add a freestanding billboard instead.

Next, look at your landscaping. Are your trees and shrubs duefor pruning? Have your plants become aged or oversized? Foliage should balance afacilitys stark walls and repetitive doors. Select plants and treesappropriate for your climate, produce color in the spring, and have minimalgrowth throughout the year. If you plan to add additional landscaping, it mustenhance but never obscure your frontage, and should not provide a means forthieves to scale your perimeter.

Walk around your facility at night and look for places where athief could hide. If you see a dark corner or driveway, consider an upgrade toyour lighting. Use metal halide lights to shine on perimeter areas anddriveways. Replace incandescent light fixtures with bright energy- efficientflorescent units. Your business will look safer, and newer, energy-friendlyfixtures can reduce your total electric bills.

Additional Security

You can enhance a tenants impression of personal securityby adding intercom stations at elevator lobbies and near outdoor light fixtures. Music-paging speakers are also a plus. These are wired systemswith wireless options for hard-to-reach zones.

This would also be a good time to review your videosurveillance. Replace older black-and-white cameras with high-resolution,lowlight, color models. Wall-mounted dome housings, unlike box housings, willdisguise the cameras actual direction of view as well as discouragevandalism. Replace office and lobby cameras with specialty versions that willnot be blinded by direct sunlight and can see in total darkness.

The newest cameras are auto-trackers that willautomatically pan, tilt and zoom in on any motion. This means a pole-mountedcamera will capture a clear, zoomed view of a license plate as a car enters yourproperty. Then, this same camera will automatically swing around for a facialclose-up as the person enters your lobby or office. Tenants and would-be thievessee this camera motion and know they are being monitored. You can even have anyafter-hours motion trigger a siren and summon for an armed response. These newcameras are like having a salary-free security guard on duty 24/7.

Most of your security upgrades will be transparent to tenantsand may not translate into a marketing advantage or higher rentals. For example,switching from a time-lapse video recorder to a digital system improves playbackclarity and off-site monitoring; but your tenants may never see this. However,if your video system supports individual camera passwords, you can promote thisimprovement. For example, it allows a tenant storing an RV on your premises toview his vehicle via the Internet at any time.

Modern drive-up access keypads become a marketing upgrade whena tenant can insert his drivers license as a gate code or his credit card fora delinquent rent payment. Commercial-grade keypads have the familiartelephone-style metal keys, while older keypads have rubber or plastic keys thatare vulnerable to abuse. Cheaper keypads use flat-panel keys vandals can renderunreadable with a simple can of spray paint. If keypads look cheap or vulnerableto your eye, they will to your tenants as well.

Individual door alarms are a great upgrade and an incomesource. Hard-wired alarms are completely hidden from tenants, butwireless models serve as a visual crime deterrent. Some wireless systems allowyou to purchase alarms as needed, renting them only to the tenants who wantpremium security. The newest solutions have moved away from the crowded 900 MHzband and can operate for almost 20 years between battery changes.

Unauthorized door openings, after-hours movement, or theinterruption of perimeter beams can invoke a security system to respond. Sirens are standard but only effective if someone is closeenough to hear them and attentive enough to care. Telephone dialers and remotemonitoring are useful, but only when timely help can arrive. Your securitysystem should have several levels of self-sufficiency to automatically disableexits, activate floodlights and capture a video record of the entire event.There are hundreds of potential response con- figurations, and a skilledsecurity vendor should be able to propose upgrade options to match your specificneeds.


Some facility upgrades are easily wrapped into a largermaintenance project. For example, if your driveways need resurfacing, consideradding bollards to protect the corners of your building. If your perimeterchain-link fence needs repairs, consider switching to a more attractive,wrought-iron fence.

Another upgrade is the addition of a profit center. Considerconverting a portion of your rental office into additional retail space. Moveyour historical tenant records, maintenance supplies and other officenonessentials into a company unit. Now push the managers counter back a fewfeet, and use the newly open floor space to sell boxes, tapes, dollies, markersand moving organizers.

Even if your office space is limited, you can addwine-rack-style shelving behind the counter. Each shelf then becomes a rentablemailbox drop unit, producing hundreds of dollars in additional monthly revenue. As you expand your traffic flow and tracked units, confirmyour management and access products are not limiting your capacity to grow.

Another upgrade opportunity involves the use of yourundeveloped land. Consider incorporating another business, such as a drive-thrucar wash or a convenience store, which can complement the self-storage businessmodel. Or you can simply level the ground and offer RV parking. You gain yet another income source while offering more reasonsfor potential customers to visit your facility.

With each upgrade option you consider, ask yourself if thecapital investment required will optimize the value of your facility, increaseincome, reduce operating expenses and improve your marketing advantage. Skilled vendors can guide you through your options and ease their implementation.

Doug Carner is a former member of Self Storage AssociationsWestern region board of directors. He is also the vice president of QuikStorSecurity & Software, a California-based company specializing in accesscontrol, management software, digital video surveillance, and kiosk andcorporate products for the self-storage industry. For more information, call800.321.1987; e-mail [email protected];

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