Twenty-Seven Common Self Storage Design And Construction Mistakes To Avoid

Incase you missed my recent article in Inside Self Storage here is is!

Twenty-Seven Common Design And Construction Mistakes To Avoid

by Marc Goodin

Common design and construction mistakes can cost an owner immediate extra expenses to correct or long term financial losses or aggravation because they cannot be easily corrected.  A final design takes input from several professionals including a building manufacture, architect, civil engineer, contractors and a self storage consultant.  Often the reason we see many of the same common mistakes over and over is because there is no self storage consultant used as part of the process.  The design group typically has enough experience to do a good job for their specific expertise but the coordination and some things specific to self storage are often left up to the novice owner.

Don't forget to make your office bright!!

Here are twenty-seven common design and construction mistakes to avoid:

1.  No office in phase 1.   Without a managed office your rent up period will be difficult and take much longer. And you may have to reduce your rents substantially.  People do not like to call for an appointment.  Many rentals start as a simple inquiry from a person driving by.

2.  No sales area in office or sales area too small.  A nice office and sales area with products help makes an important first impression and will both increase your rentals and product sales.

3.  No easy access to customer bathroom.  Your customers will use the bathroom

and they should not have to look for the bathroom or need to go behind the

counter.

4.  Customer has to go through the security gate to get to the office. The office

should be outside of the security gate and fencing.  It is much more pleasurable to

drive directly to the office without going through a gate or fenced in area. And

renters prefer the security gate closed even during business hours.         

5.  Lack of a 4 foot man gate for walk through access to the storage units. You

will be taking potential clients for site walks to visit units on a regular basis.  A

walk through gate is so convenient and makes the process faster.  Not to mention

you will be in the “yard” several times a day doing chores making the man gate a

must both for you and for potential clients to come & find you.

6. Access key pad not properly aligned up with the gate limits.   The key pad is

often pushed to the edge of the pavement so it does not appear to be in the way. 

But because the key pad is typically located close to the gate, even a small off set

makes the turn to the gate hard to make.  Often the key pad location is set before

the gate is in place and we forget the gate is much smaller than the 24 foot

driveway and do not realize how much the offset is.  Always stakeout the gate

opening and key pad, then check with your vehicle before the key pad is installed.

7. The gate safety vehicle trip wire is not installed under the final pavement course.  This is the wire that is installed on each side of the gate that registers a car is passing so the gate does not shut on a car.  To often a saw cut is made in the pavement to install the trip wire since the paving contractor and gate contractor were not coordinated.  In cold climates this cut will never patch well and the pavement will deteriorate year after year.

8. Lack of bollards.  Bollards protect the key pads, gates and building corners.

They are often left out due to the $500 plus cost per bollard.  It only takes a

couple of accidents to make you wish you had them.

I always like to make my kids part of the entire development process!

9. Facility located in industrial park or out of the way locations. Certainly

veterans self storage developers and novice have read don’t do this, many times

but we continue to see self storages that can not rent up due to poor locations.   I

often hear but I already own the land so it’s free.  Don’t do it!   Sell the land and

buy on main street.

10. Space between buildings is less than 24 feet.  This is the minimum isle width

required by most zoning and building regulations, but not all.   It gets difficult to

have two way traffic and to safely park and pass.  Less than 24 foot will be

noticeable to your potential clients and they will have the option just down the

road for 24 foot isles.

11. Larger units (especially car storage units) not located to the outside of the

project versus on drives with buildings on both sides.   Cars can just barley get

into a unit with 24 isles between buildings.  On the outside of the project the car

wheels can stay on the pavement and have a couple of extra feet to maneuver.

And bad drivers can use a couple of feet of grass – much better than hitting your

building. You should also consider 9 foot wide doors for all 10 foot wide spaces

or at least car storage units (10 x 20 and larger)

12. Not enough landscaping provided.  Often the first impression people get of

your facility is based upon driving by your facility.  What makes your facility

drive by different? A lot of landscaping is a great marketing feature because it

makes a great drive by impression.  Manicured green green grass & flowers a

must!

13. No windows or small windows in office.  Think big and bright.  It will help

your clients get that: “just feels right feeling” and rent from you.

14. No lighting or not enough site lighting. A light at the site entrance is also a

nice touch.  LED lighting is a must.

15. Storage units not visible from the road.  You may have a lot of traffic on

your road but if they can’t see the doors its like being in the back woods with no

traffic.

16. None or limited security measures.  Perimeter fencing, computer controlled

access gate, site lighting and cameras are considered the minimum standard.

17. Dead ends.  I understand you can get more units – but maybe you should

consider a larger piece of land.  Dead ends do not make for prime first class self

storage.

 

Quality signs are a must.

18.  Odd size buildings. They cost more and often there is no reason for

them.  Since the raw building material comes in even ten foot lengths, even ten

foot increments should be used for building dimensions to minimize waste

for efficient pricing. I have also seen entire facilities with 10 and 20 foot wide

buildings which does not make because they can cost 30% more than the

standard 30 foot wide buildings.

19. Not enough variety in unit sizes.  Even if it is clear you need a high

concentration of a certain unit size it is important to have a variety of sizes for a

faster rent up and more profits. Just because the faculty up the street is out of 10’ x

20’ units does not mean the majority of your units should be 10’ x 20’. Maybe

they only had a couple to start with. Here is a simple ratio to start with for

each 100 units:  six – 5’ x 5’ x 4’lockers, eight – 5’ x 5’, fourteen – 5 x 10,  six – 5 x

15, twenty four -10 x 10’, twenty – 10 x 15, twenty -10’ x 20’, two – 10 x 25, two

– 10 x 30.  There are a lot of factors to consider to determine unit sizes. For

example college towns and areas with high apartment density typically need more

smaller units. During phase 2 you can adjust the units to better adjust to

the local demand. 

20. Show units not located near the office.  Typically you take clients for a site walk to help them determine the best unit for them and promote your facility.  It is nice to have one of each unit size just outside the office so you do not have to walk way out back to show a unit.

21. No lockers (5 x 5 x 4) units provided.  These are small units stacked one

above the other in a climate control building.  You may not need too many but

they will provide your highest rental rate per sf. Since they are the lowest price

unit they help with your advertising.  Units starting at just……

22. Construction phasing not provided on the approved plans requiring a

return to the commission for approval.  If your not sure, show more phases, you

can always combine phases and build more than one at a time.

23. Site signage not on the plans requiring a to return to the

commission for approval.  As soon as you hire a civil engineer for your site

plan design its time to design the sign and determine the location so it can be

shown on the site plans for approval.

Don't forget the coming soon sign - rentals in place before you open are a good thing.

24. Driveway radius at the Town road is too small.  A minimum radius of 25 foot for cars and a preferred entrance radius of 45 foot for large moving vans should be provided.

25. Access isles for RV and boat parking is not large enough. A large RV or

boat and trailer can be over 45 feet long and require an equal length to pull out of

its parking space.  Wider spaces or angled spaces can reduce the over all access

isles required.

26. You need more than good site plans to insure construction is done right and on budget. In addition to have construction plans it is important to have specifications to go with the plans for both bidding and construction.

Everything should be in writing.  Especially plan changes and associated fee changes. The contractors payment schedule should be included in each proposal. Any hold backs should also be included.  All contracts should state, “the contractor shall review and accept any existing work related to his work prior to starting”. A 15% construction budget contingency is a must.

27.  Not realizing it is going to take longer than you think to go from today until opening day.  This often causes the biggest heartaches.  Finding land, site plan design, building design, Municipal approvals, bank loan approvals, bidding and construction can each cause delays.  If you work diligently but are prepared for delays you will enjoy the journey.

 Cheers

Marc Goodin