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Self storage has come a long way from the days of warehouses and mills located on industrial estate, serviced by warehousemen in overalls with a cigarette and a broom in hand. The latest generation of storage centres are closer to 5 star hotels for your belongings. Today’s centres have been built on the experiences of the past and are built with the customer in mind. There are two very different directions a developer may have to come from. Many of the best self storage centres were previously buildings with other uses which have to be adapted to accommodate self storage, the other approach is a bare site and a purpose built storage centre. The challenges are different, but the desired outcome is similar.
The key to developing a high quality storage centre is to have the requirement of the customer in mind. The building must sell itself and present self storage in an open and friendly manner. The concept of self storage is to retail property space for storage to a wide range of potential customers. Potential customer types all have a range of requirements and it is the building that must be laid out and designed to help retail the space.
Different customer types and their own property requirements include:
Students: This group is largely looking for a small amount of space at the cheapest possible price. On this basis, the property design needs to provide lockers or small rooms. The location of this student accommodation can be in relatively inaccessible parts of the building. If you have space which can only be accessed with a rolling stair case, student lockers are the best option for this space. In addition putting lockers on the top floor of the building allows you to charge less for this space and therefore meet the requirements of students.
Businesses: This group of customers are diverse. There are some who are looking for straightforward storage space, others need 24 hour access in lock ups, lawyers and accountants etc may require archive space. Once again, when designing the building it is important to take account of the layout of the space. At the beginning of a storage centre’s life cycle bulk space can be an important revenue generator. This would mean that an area of the ground floor should be left free and flexible to provide large storage areas for bulk space.
Domestic: The reason for individuals and families storing their belongings in self storage are varied. It may be due to a house move, carrying out DIY and needing extra space, a new baby means the spare room can no longer be used for storage. The key here is to provide a secure, clean and dry environment that domestic customers would be happy to leave there precious personal belongings behind in.
So once you have understood the individual customer requirements there are some general principals to be followed:
General Presentation: The building needs to be visible from the local road network and if possible should help educate potential customers on the concept of self storage. For example the customer should be able to see into the loading bay, reception signs should be clearly visible, storage rooms should be presented through glass if possible and there should be obvious signs of good security.
Reception: The reception area is critical to the operation. It should be a spacious, there should be a show room demonstrating the different storage space available, packaging material should be on display. This is the area that potential customers make the final decision to store their belongings in your centre; it has to give an impression of real professionalism and give the customer confidence their requirements are going to be met.
Layout of the Centre: Once again the customer is king. Make sure the corridors are wide enough to allow 2 trolleys to pass. Put in enough lifts to allow customers to easily get up to the upper floors without having to wait when the storage centre is full. Ensure the stairs are wide enough to allow someone to carry heavy goods up the stairs and avoid two tiers to a stair case, try and build them in a straight line.
Loading bay: This area should be as spacious as possible allowing 3-5 vehicles to be parked in the loading bay at any one time. A covered loading bay is now essential, gone are the days when customers are happy to load and unload belongings in the rain. There should be a defined area for trolleys.
The key to designing a storage centre is the customer.
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Disclamer: This entry is intended to promote our partner StorageMart and some or all participants received compensation.