First and foremost, an acre has roughly 43,560 sq. ft. of space. If each of the storage units is 10 x 20, they would cover 200sqft, therefore in order to find out how many units you could fit on an acre, you would need to divide 43,560/200 and that equals 217, which is the number of units you could fit on 1 acre of property.

However, just like car commercials you hear on the radio, the amount of self-storage units you can fit on an acre comes with a few caveats. For instance, it is imperative you contact your local building department to determine your storm water retention regulations. The amount of land dedicated to water runoff is frequently underestimated when penciling out self-storage business plans.

Note that your unit mix and how much climate-control or canopy/enclosed/open parking to build is dictated by the demographic and psychographic characteristics of self-storage customers in your area, and what they want to rent. These last caveats are determined in your self-storage feasibility study.

However, according to reports, you can apply the following coverage rates to each acre to estimate the gross square feet of self-storage you will be able to build on your parcel:

Single-story self-storage buildings

  • 30 percent coverage for drive-up units
  • 35 percent coverage for drive-up units with minimal setbacks
  • 40 percent coverage for wide buildings with interior corridors
  • 45 percent coverage for exceptionally wide buildings to maximize coverage
  • 50 percent coverage for a level site with exceptionally wide buildings to maximize coverage and a minimal water retention pond

Multi-story self-storage buildings

  • 35 percent coverage for a two-story building into a hill, up to 40’ wide with no halls
  • 40 percent coverage for a two-story building into a hill, more than 40’ wide with halls
  • 45 percent coverage for a wide two-story building
  • 45 percent coverage for a wide three-story building

Boat and RV storage

  • Depending on the site, between 40 percent to 50 percent coverage, this is 20,000 to 23,000 square feet per acre.
  • This assumes each parking stall is 350 square feet, resulting in 60 to 70 parking stalls per acre.

Understanding Development Fundamentals of Building Your First Storage Facility

Have it in mind that choosing the right site and establishing a well-designed unit mix and layout is very imperative, especially for a first-time developer. Nonetheless, these are the fundamentals of a successful storage business, whether you are building your first or 100th facility.

  1. Site Selection

Site selection is one of the most important factors in determining success. You will want a location that’s highly visible, with good access, on a major road. Note that any site you choose should be in a high-growth area or one that’s clearly in the path of progress.

Also, you need a good combination of demographics, with higher than average household income and population growth in a three-mile trade area. Also note that the location should have minimal existing or planned self-storage competition, particularly within that first mile.

If you have located an area that is underserved, the probabilities are that other developers have noticed it as well. Consider checking with the local building authority to see what’s headed that way before you start to develop. You don’t have to let competitive forces alter your decision, but be aware of all existing and planned projects.

Additionally, any property you pick is expected to be big enough to contain your planned development and have access to the proper utilities, such as water, sewer, and electricity. It should also be properly zoned.

What is important is you understand that not all land is good for self-storage. Just because you inherited it or bought it at a bargain doesn’t make it a desirable location. A good site is expected to have the above attributes. If it doesn’t, you need to keep looking for one that does.

According to reports, a single-story development might require 3 to 5 acres, depending on topography and shape. A multi-story site will come in at 2 acres or so. However, always have an exit strategy for any site you choose, with the ability to terminate the contract if the permitting or zoning doesn’t go your way. The bottom line is the best site gives you a high level of comfort.

  1. Site Layout

Using a single-story storage facility as a yardstick, as it would normally be easier and less costly for a first-time developer to build. During the layout process, it is advisable you involve a professional civil engineer with experience in self-storage design, which can be invaluable.

Note that the aim is to maximize the net rentable square footage. You need a site that will accommodate a minimum of 50,000 square feet, constructed all at once or in phases. Have it in mind that the layout is more or less a product of the shape and topography of the land parcel, but many other factors come into play, including:

  • Fire code and use of fire equipment (with the possible requirement of automatic fire-suppression systems)
  • Storm-water rules in your municipality
  • Other local zoning rules with setbacks and landscaping requirements
  1. Unit Mix

Self-storage unit mix is more or less a product of population density and income levels. For instance, places of higher income will genuinely demand more security and climate-controlled features; apartment dwellers will want smaller units, maybe 5-by-10s; and suburban or commercial-oriented markets will call for more large spaces, such as 10-by-20s.

However, it is necessary to note that your financial return per square foot (PSF) usually diminishes as the size of the unit increases. For instance, if your market will support $70 for a 5-by-10, you are achieving a rental rate of $16.80 PSF. It is arguable that the 10-by-20 will support that same rate.

Note that this doesn’t mean you should build a higher proportion of smaller units, though. A store with 50,000 net rentable square feet might have more than 500 storage units or as few as 300, depending on the market. You are expected to build the unit mix to the market, not to skew the PSF return.

Conclusion

When you are designing your Storage facility, your main aim should be to maximize your return on Investment. Whether you are building a Self Storage Building facility from the ground up or looking to expand, it is important to understand the market and create the right investment strategy.

Making your research and spending time with professional engineers and planners will help you succeed in your first self-storage development. Remember, it is a process that’ll involve a considerable amount of your time and money, but the reward will be worth it.

Ajaero Tony Martins