DEVELOPERS within the construction sector want the building or redevelopment project they have commissioned to be finished quickly. Dead space is like an aircraft sitting on the tarmac: it’s earning no money while it stands still.

The key to speed in delivery is in having a good location, a suitable structure, a well-researched floorplan and excellent relations with both building contractors and consultants. Get those things right and you’re already well ahead of the game.

This disciplined yet highly efficient approach is taken by one of Scotland’s fastest growing business service operations. Storage Vault and its sister company, Storage Vault Workspace, were formed just four years ago to provide flexible self storage, office and workspace accommodation to tenants on a short and long term basis.

The companies now have tailored buildings in 13 different locations across Scotland, including in Glasgow, Paisley, Coatbridge, Kilmarnock and East Kilbride. 

There are plans for another seven in the next year, taking the total to 20, with expansion south of the border also in prospect.

Storage Vault Workspace offers a complementary service, providing office space, often in the same location as a self storage facility operated by Storage Vault. It offers studio workspace accommodation as well as high quality offices of flexible size which cater for businesses from sole traders upwards.

The key to converting a property for rental is using a modular form of design. Fraser Sutherland, Marketing and Property Manager for Storage Vault, right, explains: “No matter how different the buildings are, you are generally able to strip them back to basics and then put in the studio or office layout you are looking for.

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“We know that for a workshop, you essentially need a unit of 500 square feet for any small business to operate from. So when we go in, we are already aware of everything we need to go into that space.

“So we can very quickly get the work carried out. It’s the same with storage, where we can also take this modular approach. At our Cambuslang location, we knew we would be able to get 20,000 square feet of net rentable accommodation from what is a one acre site.  
“We have a cookie cutter model of how that layout works, which means we can move very quickly on a building rather than spending months working out a perfect layout before we put an offer in.”

To further increase efficiencies, the company sources the items for the fit-out itself and creates the specifications needed. “We are at a point now where we can basically remove the middleman and cut lead times a lot,” Fraser Sutherland says.

“That makes things a lot quicker operationally and allows us to open up the site and begin earning revenue. We have favoured contractors, though finding good consultants is very difficult. The builders we use are fantastic. If you have a good relationship with them, that is often the biggest battle won.”

As well as being able to quickly identify different buildings and locations, this approach also flags up properties and sites which will not be suitable, meaning mistakes which may have been made on earlier projects are not repeated.

What are the requirements for a suitable structure to fit out? “We always look to get a minimum of 20,000 square feet of net rentable accommodation. As soon as you go below that, it becomes very difficult to operate efficiently and profitably.”

Research, he adds, is also critical. “You have to ask if there is a market for what you’re planning to provide, and of course the building has to be available at a good price.”

Providing quality space that meets the requirements of clients is also a prerequisite. Some of the company’s locations have studio workshops at ground level and office accommodation above, meaning tenants can take advantage of both.

“This is ideal for some businesses. For instance, we have a company with us that fixes and builds coffee machines and also supplies the coffee itself. For that, you need some workshop space, but ideally also a connected office to run your operation.”

A modular approach can also provide quickly configurable internal space. Storage Vault and Storage Vault Workspace have taken this on board by using movable walls in storage and studio areas. This means that if a client wants to take 500 square feet of space, it can be created quickly by relocating partitions on, say, five 100 square foot units.

“We’re also doing this with one of our offices in Glasgow. We’re building it with glass partitions that match up perfectly with soffits along the corridor. So we can create space by simply sliding the partitions along or taking them out altogether. 

“Doing it this way allows us to have a very high occupancy as we’re not stuck with 2000 square feet of office space we can’t shift because we’re waiting for a 10 or 20 man business to move in and fill it .

“We can literally reconfigure the layout  overnight and a client can come in the next day.”