Self-Storage Facility Design Goes the Way of Retail With Upscale Materials, Styles and Trends

By Amy Campbell Comments
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From the street, Magellan Storage in Torrance, Calif., hardly resembles a typical self-storage facility. Taking advantage of its position on West 190th Street, the building presents a decorative façade to draw passers-by. Many of its features are modeled on a Boston waterfront property, including the logo, which mimics a ship's anchor. The thin veneer bricks on the corner juncture add style and color, while the large windows are topped with ornamental awnings. Lush landscaping skirts the office. Even the signage received artistic treatment.

The theme continues inside the office, where a giant compass rose shines out from the floor and brass lanterns maintain the waterfront vibe. Though the large windows filter natural light, solar shading guards against heat gain and ultraviolet rays. “The project was designed to be ‘user-friendly’ and has as a warm, secure interior office feel,” says facility architect Bruce Jordan, president of Jordan Architects Inc., which offers architectural services to the industry.

Over the past decade, self-storage has evolved from “just a place to store stuff” to a retail powerhouse, so it’s only natural that building design—inside and out—would follow this path. Today’s design incorporates a modern look and feel combined with superior materials and even energy-efficient applications.

“Developers and operators want self-storage projects that scream, ‘I’m retail … look at me!’” says Ariel Valli, president and principal architect of Valli Architectural Group, which provides specialized design services to the self-storage industry.

Magellan Storage in Torrance, Calif.Facilities are incorporating more complex designs, varying the types of building materials and their integration in the overall look, says Charles Plunkett, founder and CEO of Capco Steel Inc., a steel supplier and erector of metal buildings. “This may include special treatments to add color and texture, and different materials used in harmony to create an inviting, modern appearance.”

Materials, Colors and Styles

Today’s self-storage facilities are mixed in with retail areas and residential neighborhoods, and developers and architects are incorporating styles and methods once reserved for high-end office and retail space. New exteriors The office at Magellan Storage, with the lovely compass rose in the flooring.include cupolas, canopies, split-faced block, brick veneer, pitched roofs, parapet walls that extend higher than the roofline, and other interesting elements.

“Today’s facilities are more complex, attractive and detailed than ever before,” Plunkett says. “With increased competition, it seems to be important to create a more inviting project than the competitor.”

One of the biggest changes lies in choosing exterior materials. “Wall treatments have made the biggest impact overall in regard to exterior features,” says Frank Relf, owner of Frank G. Relf Architects, which offers architectural services to the industry. “The use of various types of metal-panel systems and styles, and alternating bands of different material are the most significant.”

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