The Chicken or the Egg
(aka the civil engineer or the building manufacturer)?

November 9, 2017 Steve Hajewski, Marketing Manager

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to do many different things. Aside from being the Marketing Manager here at Trachte, I also serve as Regional Manager for one state. I speak to many clients as they develop their sites to walk them through some of the marketing, management and technology issues that they get to address as small business owners. I am the managing partner of my own facility, so I have had my own crash course on self-storage construction and operations.

One of the topics that I notice that many new developers struggle with is where to start. They want a site design, but they don’t want to pay a civil engineer – because they are unsure if the project is worth investing in. They do not want to hire a consultant for the same reason. New developers feel that they need a site plan with a detailed unit mix so that they can figure out if they should move ahead. But because they have not hired a civil engineer, we don’t have the information we need in order to create a site layout with any degree of accuracy.

The whole situation is why we created the “investment calculators” on our web site. I don’t want to be in the business of telling someone if a project is a good investment or not. But this is the tool that will help you decide for yourself. If you know the size and price of the land you are looking at, plus the local rental rates for competition, you have all the info you need to run a quick financial projection. To try it out, click on the “resources” heading, then the “calculators” page.

The “basic” calculator works on some assumptions and averages but you don’t need to have your unit mix figured out in order to use it. The advanced calculator requires a user account but allows you to save your work, and create alternate versions by copying and changing some variables. The end result is financial forecasting that is detailed enough to serve as your business plan in your lending application (I mean this in a literal sense, I have used it twice for this).

I do encourage you to speak with your Trachte Regional Manager very early in your process – just understand that Trachte isn’t a substitute for a local civil engineer. While every building that we sell is custom designed to some extent, there are often small design adjustments that could save time and money. Your civil engineer might not know that he or she could have avoided steps by using our 1% slope, that even 10’ increments of width are more economical to build, or that a certain style of building is most cost effective to insulate with your new energy code. By working with both your Trachte Regional Manager and your civil engineer (and architect if you’ll be using one) early in the process you can make design adjustments early, before moving ahead with approvals. One client I have worked with had buildings oriented in a way that requires a very complex foundation design with steps in multiple directions. Simply rotating the array of buildings about 30 degrees would have made things much easier – but the site plan is already went through a painful local approval process, likely costing tens of thousands of dollars.

So, if you are thinking of building, run some numbers on that calculator. Think about who your clients are and what type of storage they’ll need. If you are serious about the project and you have confidence that the city will let you build there, get a survey of the property from your civil engineer sooner than later. When you are ready to talk about your project, we’ll be here for you.

Share This!