Creating Climate Controlled Steel Buildings

Published November 17, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

climate controlled self-storage

Aside from structures meant for human habitation, such as office buildings and homes, there are other reasons to create climate controlled steel buildings although with less stringent temperature requirements. For example, you may wish to offer climate controlled units at your self-storage facility where a temperature range from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit is acceptable.

Controlling the internal climate of a steel structure is a function of an array of design elements that work together to moderate the temperature, and often the humidity, of the interior space of the building to protect the contents.


Benefits of climate controlLED METAL STORAGE BUILDINGS

Climate control provides several benefits beyond human comfort or survival.

  • Climate controlled self-storage spaces bring in more revenue than non-climate controlled units due to ability to charge higher rent.
  • Certain climate control methods can help save on energy costs by passively reducing heat from entering the facility or keeping it from leaving.
  • Products such as electronic equipment, art work, wine, and paper can be maintained longer in a climate controlled environment.
  • Placing certain types of equipment, such as motors, compressors, and computer servers in a climate controlled environment improves their efficiency and lengthens their productive life cycle.

By spending more up front on design, material, and labor costs, your investment is returned over the decades a steel building can last by increasing revenue and decreasing energy costs while lengthening the working life of machinery and other products.

Let’s take a look at the different methods and components for creating climate controlled steel buildings.

climate controlled mini storage

Building orientation and layout

The direction the structural walls and roofing face can have a significant impact on the interior temperature. Southern and western exposures receive much more heating from the sunlight that comes in through windows and doors than one that faces primarily north or east.

Morning sunlight may heat a building quicker in the morning but the southern face of a structure remains in the sunlight longer while the west sun adds heat to a building that is already warm from a daytime of sun. If you have a multiple story facility, the upper floor can buffer the lower one from the outside environment.

On the other hand, a roof with a southern or southwestern exposure is best for solar energy harvesting.

The interior layout of a building also impacts climate control. A large door or multiple openings in a structure full of climate controlled units can increase energy costs because the system must labor to return the temperature and humidity to the optimal setting. Every time the door is opened, cold air enters and heat escapes in the winter and vice versa in the summer.

Energy loss can be reduced by:

  • Decreasing the number of openings
  • Using a smaller door
  • Creating an entry way with two sets of doors
  • Creating short corridors running between enclosed spaces. (Shorter corridors also create more efficient zoning for heating and cooling.)

Short corridors also make moving property in and out of storage easier.


Insulation is a crucial part of any climate control scheme. A mechanical engineer or architect can help you determine the requirements for your specific facility. Adding insulation to the walls, exterior doors, and roof will not only help moderate the indoor temperature but also ease the burden on the heating and air conditioning equipment.

In certain cases, you may also want insulation beneath the flooring.

Steel building frames easily accommodate batt and blanket insulation, which can be installed between the primary frame columns and rafters. Irregularly shaped spaces can be insulated with spray foam insulation that expands to fill all the empty space around protrusions and other irregularities.

The R value of insulation indicates its thermal performance. A higher R value equates to better thermal resistance. Also, the thicker the insulation, the better the thermal control. Some insulation comes with a vapor retarder to prevent or reduce the flow of moisture into the insulation.

Using fire-retardant insulation increases the fire protection of the structure. Steel buildings are highly fire-resistant but if the insulation is not also fire retardant, the flames will spread and damage the contents of the building. Keeping all your clients’ belongings safe from fire is one of the biggest reasons for building with steel. Using fire-retardant insulation increases the likelihood that everything will survive intact in case fire breaks out within the facility.

climate controlled storage unit


Heating, air conditioning, and ventilation

Climate-controlled self-storage is not possible without heating and air conditioning. Select the most energy efficient units you can afford and be sure to obtain the right size unit(s) for your facility. Heating and air conditioning equipment can also help regulate the humidity within the space, an important consideration for some types of property.

Installing the units inside the building, especially in regions of extreme heat and cold, will increase their efficiency and prolong their working life. Pair the system with a programmable thermostat to save even more on energy costs by keeping the temperature stable even as the outside temperature changes during the course of the day. A programmable thermostat also allows you to set different temperatures for different times of day or days of the week to save on energy costs during low-use times.

The proper ventilation is crucial to controlling the interior climate, whether you use other equipment or not. Adequate ventilation creates air movement so the warm or cool air is carried throughout the building. Ventilation also keeps moisture from accumulating and ruining Grandma’s antique couch or an expensive electronic media system.

Cool roof

Finally, you can regulate the climate through passive heat reflection and re-emission. A white or lightly colored roof reflects the heat of the sun so the upper portion of the building heats less in the summer. Certain roof panel coatings even have extra reflective materials added to increase reflectance.

A steel roof, particularly a standing seam roof, also provides an appropriate foundation for solar units that can help lower your overall electricity costs.

Steel buildings are durable, sustainable structures that can withstand much of what Mother Nature throws at it. With proper planning and installing the right materials and equipment, the interior of the building can protect the contents from the temperature extremes that occur when steel and other building materials soak up the heat from the sun or lose heat to the exterior through conductance.

While all of these materials and methods work well for human habitation, they are also recommended for maintaining an adequate and stable range of temperatures and humidity for storage of certain property, such as fine art or electronic equipment.

Take care to properly orient and layout your building and install insulation, heating and air conditioning, and ventilation to keep everything safe and well-maintained without spending a fortune on energy use.



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