Today, however, the typical self-storage facility might be housed in a one-story, two-story or even sky-scraping building. Facilities are growing up. The very reasons for going to a multilevel sometimes dictate various elements of the building’s design.
Usually more expensive land creates the need to build up rather than out, as pricier land requires a facility with more earning potential than a single-story facility–more units and greater square footage in order to bring in the revenue. “What makes the multistory more attractive, of course, is the cost of land,” says Herman Menze, a self-storage facility designer based in Tempe, Ariz. Vincent High, a sales representative with Pioneer International Steel Inc. in Austin, Texas, sees a trend in the development of multilevel facilities.
“I am starting to see more expensive sites, sites located near higher-end residential communities,” High says. Those facilities say a great deal about the changing market. “Whereas the property itself is fairly expensive, people are willing to pay a little more on the dollar to get their unit closer to them.” It makes sense that developers who build on expensive land will spend more on their facility and will charge higher rental rates. “The people who are going to spend the money on a project–on an expensive piece of property where they need to build up–generally are going to go high-end. They are going to offer climate control. They are going to offer all the finer features that you’d find in a self-storage building.”
Planning/Project Approval The height of a facility is directly proportionate to zoning regulations. In fact, if self-storage is still unknown to many planning and development departments, multilevel facilities confuse them even more. “Generally, on the multilevel projects, you need to get approval from the city,” High says. “And you are going to have to get an architect. “One thing we find in the multilevel buildings is there is a bit more planning involved and a lot more of an approval process. You don’t want to get too involved in a project only to find out that it won’t be approved. So, there is a lot of pre-approval that goes on through the counties or cities before you get to the builder.
You do have to keep flexibility in mind.” Breaking the Code Many aspects of design are pre-determined by building codes and regulations–whether national, statewide, county or local. The facility’s location dictates its building codes. For example, the Universal Building Code (UBC) reigns in most of the western states, Building Officials’ Conference of America (BOCA) is used in the eastern United States, while the state of New York has a code all its own. These national codes determine such specifications as roof load, stairwell configuration and the minimum distance between a unit and the nearest stairway.
New York, on the other hand, is particularly quirky because it is the only state that requires facilities to have fire hatches with a railing to the roof, according to Jamie Lindau, sales manager of Trachte Building Systems Inc. of Sun Prairie, Wis. “There are a lot of particulars in each state,” says Lindau. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires public buildings to accommodate the handicapped, whether that be with ramps, parking, special bathrooms or all of the above. Local fire codes affect sprinklers, fire
walls, fire doors and other related specifications, says High. As a general rule of thumb, he says, a building larger than 40,000 square feet will need sprinklers and anything more than 16,000 square feet will require fire walls approximately every 3,000 feet. One thing that Menze likes to point out is the love/hate relationship with sprinklers. “The fire departments love them,” he says. “The managers generally hate them, because they are more afraid of water damage than fire damage. So, as a practical matter, I think the operators
have to get accustomed to them. “In the design of Squaw Peak Mini-Storage in Phoenix, which has one three-story building, Menze was required to install one sprinkler head for every unit in the facility. The upside of having so many sprinklers meant no fire walls were needed. Building height is frequently regulated by local authorities, but there are ways to be creative with restrictions. For example, Menze faced a 24-foot building height restriction on the Phoenix facility he designed. “So, how do you get three floors in 24 feet?”