By Jeffrey S. Dallenbach
The visibility of a self-storage facility to potential customers is often the primary design goal for an architect. Materials and accents are the details that create an image and draw the prospect's eye. Let’s take a closer look at how building materials can enhance a facility’s overall curb appeal while creating a long-lasting building.
The exterior design always begins by defining the primary wall material. The factors that drive this decision are cost, durability and design standards. Throughout the history of self-storage, the primary cladding has been metal panels, which are desirable primarily because of price. Packaging the wall panels with a steel system and metal roof provides a cost-effective project.
Metal panels are also desirable because of their durability and low maintenance. As the popularity of metal has increased, manufacturers have developed multiple products that allow for creativity in design. Standard color options have expanded, allowing the use of vibrant shades that can help create a dramatic focal point on a facility. Variations of the metal-panel profile can also develop dynamic pattern options for exterior walls.
Flat-panel and insulated-panel systems can also create a sleek or streamlined design. The downside to these systems is the economy is not realized and, therefore, they are used sparingly as accents to other wall systems. Metal panels are durable and can be dented when used as a ground-level product, but ease of maintenance is a big factor that helps to keep down costs.
Long-term water-tightness and color warranties are also available to maintain the look and quality of the product for many years. While the factors above push an architect to use metal panels, the biggest deterrent is design standards in many areas that restrict or prohibit their use.
Masonry is also dominant in the storage industry and a high-quality alternative to a metal wall system. Concrete masonry units (CMU) can be used in many ways. One cost-saving aspect is the use of foam insulation within the cells of the masonry unit itself. This results in a wall system that has no need for interior metal panels to encase the wall insulation. The durability of the product’s interior and exterior face results in a low-maintenance product with a long lifespan. Labor costs and construction time can limit the use in some parts of the country, but the design opportunities can lend themselves to a great-looking product.
A-AAA Key Self Storage Military, San Antonio, Texas. Smooth, metal panels that are highly reflective highlight the entry to the building with a sawtooth pattern (left). The ultimate use of concrete masonry units: Glazed to provide color, split-faced to mimic limestone, and smooth-face with stucco to relate to the South Texas aesthetics (right).