By Bruce Jordan
Architecture is said to be all about the manipulation of space. In self-storage, it’s about the manipulation of “spaces” and everything that connects them. After all, drive aisles are spaces, 5-by-5 and 10-by-15 units are spaces, and all that open setback area is also a space (albeit usually a landscaped space). How we choose to manipulate, connect and use these areas can have a profound impact on the success of a self-storage facility.
When designing a self-storage site, there are a number of factors that will have a bearing on the design. Client needs, zoning requirements, topography of the land, market considerations, community characteristics, location of the property, access and views will have competing influences. All these considerations need to be fully understood to design an attractive, well-functioning facility.
The Taj Mahal is a marvel in terms of its form and beauty, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to access a 10-by-20 unit there! One of the most important considerations in self-storage design is how a project is viewed from the street and the accessibility of the entry sequence, the way by which a new customer views the facility, enters the site, parks and is invited into the office. It’s also where returning customers negotiate the entry gates and drive to their units in the case of a single-story project, or the loading area in a multi-story facility.
This article focuses on ways self-storage developers can maximize their site’s space including the management office, drive aisles and even the ramp for a two-story project.
The management office should be the most architecturally prominent feature on the site. This ensures customers will easily locate the office and feel invited to visit. You want to think “retail,” not “industrial,” when designing the office, since 60 percent of your customers are women. I like to use large glass areas so a potential customer can easily see the interior office and customer-service counter, which enhances the feeling of safety and security.
The management office is your initial opportunity to convey the organization, safety and security that’s so important to the typical customer. A light, bright and airy office will help the manager and the customer psychologically, giving the former a better view and control of the front parking area and security gates, and giving customers a sense of protection.
The management office also provides a chance to separate you from competitors. Offering a coffee bar, conference room or small work stations supported by WiFi are relatively inexpensive ways to get an edge. The customer-service counter should be prominently featured, and the security monitors should be displayed directly behind or above it to ensure the office environment projects security.