The first generation of selfstorage facilities set a low standard for an emerging industry. Early building styles included poorly coated, corrugated metal roofing with screws that rusted and stained. Door colors were selected to make a bold statement and left a sour taste. Without landscape plans, early facilities looked like cemeteries. Many used signage on rooftops and buildings, making an unmistakable impression on the look of the community. The general appearance of the pioneering facilities left planning boards across America on defense when development continued to push into commercial and residential areas.
Self-storage facilities have evolved as the level of consumer awareness has grown. National television and radio advertisements have brought self-storage to mainstream America, making it a part of our lives— whether we need it or not. As self-storage competes for shrinking markets, developers are looking outside industrial parks and zones for more convenient locations closer to homes and businesses.
As self-storage blends into residential and rural areas, facilities have been able to improve their ability to assimilate by adding traditional building attributes. The pole-barn style construction is very popular in the agricultural industry and gives a barn look. Facilities in rural areas can use a high-profile color roof, lending the storage buildings a country look. Earth-tone colors provide the appearance of self-storage without the intrusive contrast of opposing bold colors. Adding copulas, dormers and windows with shutters can break up the box look of a storage building. Ornamental gates and landscaping improves security and buffers the view of the doors.
The suburban facilities gaining approval in commercial and residential markets today are planned to look more like the surrounding community than self-storage. Developers are required to combine steel buildings with attractive faÁade materials like stucco, Dryvit, brick, split block and glass to break away from the historical metal-building design. Offices become a focal point to the facility and can be accented with high-profile color roofing with hips and valleys and mansards. Extensive landscape designs promote healthy-looking curb appeal that detracts from the impervious areas achieved by storage buildings and pavement. Color selections seem to reflect the surroundings and complement the landscaping. Signage is usually restricted to small, carved wood signs and are not found on the structures themselves.
In urban areas, the demand for self-storage has driven the search for land toward the sky. Multilevel conversions of old warehouses provide low-cost construction, but yield a challenging rental scenario. Multilevel facilities must rely on freight elevators, lifts or ramps, and all of the space is accessed through a series of hallways. The addition of windows and glass cut-aways promotes visibility in an otherwise unseen product while adding natural light for the hallways. Climate control has become the popular trade-off benefit for the lack of accessibility. Urban facilities are allowed more signage opportunity and find ample wall-surface area to promote their product day or night.
As developers continue to upgrade their market selections, the look of facilities continues to improve. The appearance of modern facilities has become integral to success during the application process and ultimately the success of the facility itself.
Louis Gilmore is sales manager for Flourtown, Pa.-based Miller Building Systems Inc., where he has worked for 15 years assisting with site layouts, attending planning and zoning hearings, and delivering and installing selfstorage buildings. Miller designs, supplies and installs a full line of pre-engineered metal buildings, including single-story and multistory, climate-controlled self-storage, relocatable modular buildings and rigid-frame structures. The company has specialized in East Coast construction since 1976. For more information, call 800.323.6464; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; visit www.millerbldgs.com.