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Building Envelope Challenges For Self Storage Units

A commercial construction client called asking us to assess the energy efficiency of a storage facility they had recently built. This storage facility has approximately 200 units with a mix of heated and unheated units. The first-floor exterior units are larger, unheated units that are accessed by a large overhead door.  Heated units are located on the interior of the first floor and on the entire 2nd and 3rd floor.

This storage facility was built with metal sandwich panels which may work well with unheated buildings, but special care must be taken to seal the entire thermal boundary and pressure boundary when it is a heated storage building. The client wanted to ensure that the building would not suffer frozen sprinkler lines during extreme winter conditions and he questioned how well that pressure boundary had been sealed. The units have dry sprinkler lines for the unheated units and wet lines for the heated units.

We utilized our commercial blower door fans to pressurize the building while we performed an infrared scan. With the building pressurized, heat loss could be seen at the edges of the unheated unit overhead doors which would indicate air bypasses from the heated units to the unheated units.

Heat Loss Visible At Overhead Doors


We then depressurized the building to identify sources of air leakage. As expected, leaks were found throughout the building and the most common issues were found at corners, roof/wall intersections and where dissimilar materials met.  These leaks will be tough to correct, not to mention much more expensive to correct, now that the building is finished.

Photo Of Typical Corner



Infrared Image of Same Corner


While on-site we found that the elevator doors, which open to the exterior on the first floor, are right next to wet sprinkler lines.   We recommended insulating those sprinkler lines. We also noticed that the heating ducts circulate through the center of the building, but are located nowhere near the exterior corner units and those units have wet sprinkler lines. We recommended scabbing ductwork out closer to those exterior units.

If you have a storage facility that you’d like to test, please give us a call. Or, even better, let us inspect it while it’s being built so we can help prevent these issues!