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.
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
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.
In addtion to common mistakes it is important to look beyond the basics and see what features you can make to standout from the competition. At Storage Authority we start with a list of well over 100 great features to consider to make your facility a premier facility! If it's not worth talking about - it's not remarkable - your going in the wrong diriection - think Ritz service!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Marc Goodin is President of Storage Authority Franchising. He owns 3 self storages he designed, built and manages. He has been helping others in the self storage industry for over 25 years. He can be reached at marc@StorageAuthority.com or directly at 860-830-6764 to answer your franchising, development, marketing, sales and operations questions. His best selling self storage books are available at Amazon