Self-storage is now much more than dull rows of lock-up garages situated away from town centers. This commercial real estate sector has expanded enormously and can now present developers, architects, and structural design engineers with some very interesting projects, and investors will be kept happy too.

The rapid expansion of the self-storage industry in recent years has encouraged developers to be more ambitious. Many facilities are now fancy, new multi-story structures in densely populated areas. A greater emphasis on design has accompanied this trend, as has the increased demand from clients for a diverse range of storage services. All of this results in projects that expand the horizons of anyone seeing the economic advantages of developing self-storage facilities.

Architects Could Get Some Fun Projects!

While some self-storage facilities are still plain buildings — repurposing a strip mall outlet may not require innovative ideas — the industry’s rapid expansion means new ways to draw in customers are increasingly being tried. The wide variety of architectural elements now being seen include extensive use of glass, attractive siding, and features such as canopies and parapets. In addition, some storage companies like their facilities built to local styles, for example, Mission Revival in California. Eye-catching features are also popular, including clock towers and fake lighthouses.  The budgets might be small but the ideas can be rather fun!

Engineers Have More Than Industrial Park Lots to Work With

While many self-storage facilities make use of flat, easy-to-build-on lots, more and more of them are now being built ground-up on more challenging sites. This means developers may encounter a variety of lots and are more frequently looking upwards — the sky is now the limit, with the Chicago storage facility that used to be the Harrison Hotel Electric Garage, for example, having 21 stories. Landscape engineering may also be called for as many developers wish to create an attractive outdoor environment for clients when they first enter the premises.

MEP Contractors Might Get to Expand Their Horizons

Storage facilities generally feature a lot of climate control, but HVAC contractors will need to concentrate on keeping humidity low rather than maintaining human-habitation temperatures — wine storage units require something even more specialized. Plumbing will not be a big issue except in office spaces. But with an increasing trend toward surveillance security, electronic access, and contact-free procedures, electrics will be a big part of the project. And, there are now ‘smart’ storage units as well. They feature alarms, electronic locks, and infra-red sensors, presenting more tasks for the electricians.

Project Managers May Find the Paperwork Is Easier

There used to be a common opinion that storage facilities were unattractive additions to any community, but things have changed. City halls have come to realize that a self-storage business is a good way forward for a vacated retail outlet in the suburbs or an infill site that is not being picked up.  As always, using structure engineers and architects who are familiar with the local government will be a big advantage here. The site will look a lot better, the local community gains a useful service, and with storage customers drawn to the area adjacent businesses may also profit. It’s often seen as a win-win that is worth encouraging.

Investors See Some Stability in Their Portfolios

The cost of developing self-storage facilities is comparatively low. As a business, it’s often considered to be retail, but as real estate, it’s more like industrial. And because it is described as a ‘3-mile business’ — often providing a service at a very local level — it adapts well to oversaturation by consistently finding new markets. Also, it is an industry that tends to ride out challenging times better than others, something which is currently being witnessed — it has provided a cost-effective place to store items not only for many people who had to downsize their homes but also for businesses who could no longer maintain offices or showrooms.


The tasks involved in developing a self-storage facility can be a little different from those usually encountered in commercial construction, amounting to a very interesting project. The recent rapid growth and public appreciation of the sector have meant that clients now see more ways to use self-storage. Also, facilities are being constructed accordingly. The industry looks to be going forward in a healthy state of mind. So, a self-storage project still promises many advantages.

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Author’s Bio:

Francis Chantree is a senior editor and writer for the US-based self-storage search portal STORAGECafé. He has extensive experience writing for a variety of publications about issues related to economics, lifestyle, and the real estate industry. Francis can be reached at