Inside Self Storage Magazine

July 01, 2004 - Inside Self Storage Magazine article by Charles Plunkett

When thinking about current trends in self storage, I cannot help but think back to the past and what developers were doing many years ago. I recall the first project that I ever built as a general contractor. The owner referred to his facility as his "chicken coops. " Although this was not typical of the average developer at that time, the facilities were certainly not what they have become today.

The overriding theme in today’s self-storage developments is for a project to be "well done. " This can mean different things in different markets. A project built in a more rural environment will not be as grandiose as one built in a major metropolitan market. However, it can still be very nice.

Today’s facilities are inviting, attractive and professional in appearance. This begins with the outer appearance. Since a good many of the customers renting from a particular facility will find it from driving by, it is important to make the facility look good.

Office and office interior
Most of the projects that we are building today have very nice office facilities. This may or may not include an apartment. The overwhelming majority still have a stand-alone structure for the office, although some are beginning to place the office inside the primary building. The offices are very attractive from the outside with the majority being two stories or at least built with some extra height to them. In effect, the office structure becomes part of the project signage by attracting the attention of passersby. Most office/apartment structures are less residential looking than they used to be. The majority still have a touch of residential character but a larger sense of commercial. The touch of residential character helps to give people that "warm feeling" about placing their goods at that location. The facilities that do have the office placed inside the primary building often do something to set that structure off and attract attention. This can be accomplished through features such as towers, canopies, elevated facades, utilization of different building materials, lighting, and special roof elevations to name just a few.

Facilities have certainly gone up-scale when it comes to the office interior. The office of today is typically larger than that seen in years gone by and includes amenities such as a customer seating area, a telephone for customers to make local calls, public rest room and coffee service. Some offices even include fax service, customer work cubicles, post office boxes and other related office features. Certainly offices are much nicer in appearance. Some new projects have a beautiful finish-out, with attractive designer chosen colors, fabrics, textures, flooring, millwork, hardware, and cabinetry all working in harmony to create a professional and inviting atmosphere.

Developers of smaller projects or in more rural areas where rental rates are lower may feel that it is impossible for them to develop a facility of this nature. While they may not build an extremely high-end project, it is still possible to utilize colors and finishes and to pay attention to small details to ensure an attractive project.

Exterior
The exteriors of today’s facilities typically include more landscaping than in the past. In some cases this is dictated by the city codes. Many developers go far beyond the city requirements and install lush landscaping including trees, shrubs, ground cover and even seasonal colored flowers. All of this helps to provide a warm inviting appearance.

Nice look, low budget
Developing an up-scale project does not necessarily mean spending tons of money. It can simply mean finding innovative ways to "dress up" a project. One of the easiest ways to do this is with paint. Since you will be applying paint to the exterior anyway, mixing colors tastefully can add a lot of visibility and pizzazz to your project without spending really any more money. Many of the projects that we build today incorporate colored bands, lines or contrasting colors in the body of the buildings to add character and complexity to the structures.

Don’t be afraid to innovate
Projects are incorporating architectural features such as towers, pop-out horizontal building line changes, and combinations of building materials. Choices include combinations of rock and stucco, rough or split-face block combined with smooth block, brick combined with stucco or block, or many other potential combinations to create character. If our projects are not utilizing some form of concrete product exterior like block, brick, stucco, or tilt panel and are of the metal building exterior variety, we normally use heavy gauge galvanized steel piers between the doors. These piers can be painted, textured or finished with a new product which is similar to a synthetic stucco that is spray-applied to the piers, and looks like real stucco. It’s available in a variety of colors and can have overlay colors applied to create a more variegated appearance. The days of corrugated metal buildings in this industry are almost gone, simply because for a little bit more money you can have a very attractive building which is far less susceptible to denting and damage.

A smart way to integrate climate control
Almost every project is now constructed with standing seam metal roofs and metal framing for the structure of the buildings. This even includes large multi-story buildings. And most projects now being built have at least some climate-controlled space inside one of the buildings. One of most efficient ways to construct this space is to have outside drive-up units around the perimeter of the building with interior climate-controlled space in the core of the building. The dead air space in the perimeter units not only acts as a good insulator, but having the drive- up units around the perimeter of the building makes the best use of the driveways. In addition, constructing one large building is less expensive than constructing two smaller ones. This makes this overall concept more cost effective. In some cases the corridors that access the interior climate control units go straight through from one side of the building to the other. This provides natural lighting and a line of sight all the way through the corridor, and is perceived as a "safer" design for tenants accessing their units alone. This option is normally used more sparingly since the added cost of more personnel doors on the exterior of the building can get expensive.

Dress up your corridors
Inside the buildings and especially in climate-control space, the corridors are also being dressed up. This can include such features as hallway floors that are sealed with high gloss sealers, painted with special concrete paint or in some cases even carpeted with indoor/outdoor carpet. The hall systems are typically bright white and nearly 75% of interior corridors that we are currently building have ceilings of the same material installed. The high gloss hall and ceiling systems, along with good lighting, help to provide better visibility in the hallways. This is a key component to making people feel comfortable in the interior corridors and making this space user-friendly. The hall ceilings also help to conceal unsightly wiring, conduits, and mechanical system trunk lines.

User-friendly add-ons
In an effort to make projects more user-friendly, the doors that lead to interior corridors are often tied to a motion detector, which activates a magnetic, hold-open device. This assists people with conveniently getting their goods from outside to inside without fighting the automatic closing door. Once inside, motion detectors automatically turn on the hallway lights. The trend now is for most larger units to have lights in them. These lights are grouped together in banks of six to eight or so, and activated by a single timer. The timer is placed in the hallway or on one of the piers between the doors on the outside of the building if for exterior access units. The timer will only stay on for a limited time and then will automatically shut itself off, which prevents renters from placing appliances or devices which run off of electricity in their unit and plugging them into the light socket.

Outdoor lighting
In today’s projects, the sites are typically well lit but are still friendly to the neighborhood. This means that the site is not lit up like a baseball field! To achieve this, we are currently using lights that shine across the drive aisles and down, but not up into the sky. This keeps from creating a bright glow at night and is much more friendly to the surrounding neighborhood. This type of concept, together with softer earth tone finishes, makes a facility fit into the area more and seem less obtrusive. The days of the super-bright colored doors screaming at passersby are, for all intents and purposes, over.

Why build quality?
The overall concept of building a quality project achieves several things. It makes the project friendlier to the neighborhood and more inviting to potential users. Besides, doing this makes projects easier to get development approval! This is becoming an increasing factor in the industry as all cities seem to be tightening down on development restrictions and homeowners associations are getting much more involved and are voicing their opinions to zoning commissions.

Lastly, one of the most important factors in creating an attractive project is the good feeling that customers get from renting at that facility. Everyone likes to be associated with something that is well done and when potential customers walk into your facility the quality of the environment can effect their buying decision. Again, quality does not have to mean spending a lot more money, but simply doings things well and paying attention to some details. Good luck in your development!

www.insideselfstorage.com

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