Taking self-storage to the next level, Miller Construction Co. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., built the $22-million, high-tech, hurricane-fortified RoboVault, also in Fort Lauderdale.

Robo Vault
Photo: Miller Construction Co.

RoboVault features 456 storage containers, biometric recognition and private access to storage areas with continuous monitoring, back-up power generation, fully automated container retrieval, climate-controlled wine storage and safe-deposit boxes.

Miller began construction of the 155,000-sq-ft center in May 2008 for developer Marvin Chaney of Fort Lauderdale and completed the project in June. Miller structural engineers and Gustavo Carbonell Architects of Fort Lauderdale designed the building to withstand Category 5 hurricanes. It employs solid concrete and steel-reinforced tilt-up wall panels, a solid concrete roof, and double-pane, impact-resistant glazing manufactured to withstand 200 mph winds. Each exhaust fan was enclosed to prevent damage during heavy storms.

As Miller began excavation, the company discovered massive quantities of solid concrete and learned the site was an abandoned concrete dump. Breaking up and removing the concrete put the job six weeks behind schedule.

The storage containers’ structural steel mesh allows for proper air circulation. The team installed an emergency back-up generator, which will restore 100% of the center’s electrical base, including the HVAC system, for up to 10 days.

Westfalia Technologies of Germany provided the automated retrieval system and the warehouse management system, which manages and controls the movement of the facility’s crane and units. There is no access to the upper storage tiers for safety and security reasons.

The crane aisle separates the building into two sections—the storage bays and the common areas. Lowering the $2 million, 70-ton, automated crane, built onsite, into position through a small opening in the roof proved challenging and was accomplished during a delicate hoisting and rigging operation. Once in the building, crews positioned the crane into a covered area until they closed in the roof.

Customers access their climate-controlled units using a card and fingerprint recognition system. When a customer rents a unit, he pulls into one of seven display stations. A door slides open to that person’s unit and another closes to provide complete privacy while filling the unit. Once the customer finishes loading the unit, a touch-screen requests PIN access, and the unit returns to the storage bays via the automated turntable and crane system.

Adjacent rooms offer climate-controlled wine storage, with temperature and humidity meeting industry standards while eliminating natural light and vibrations, and private safe-deposit boxes accessed through a monitored entrance. The building’s contemporary design has few windows for a vault-like image. The interior mirrors the exterior in tone, but with a dimension of elegance and comfort. The crane serves as a focal point and is showcased in floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

Key Facts

Owner: Marvin Chaney, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Location: Fort Lauderdale
Cost: $22 million
Contractor: Miller Construction, Fort Lauderdale
Design Firm: Gustavo Carbonell Architects, Fort Lauderdale