Some builders are also experimenting with fiber cement panels in place of brick. “We love the look of real brick, but the fiber cement can achieve that look without the weight and expense,” says Steve Hajewski, marketing manager for Trachte Building Systems, a manufacturer and supplier of self-storage buildings.
Self-storage windows are also getting a makeover. “In more upscale markets, we’re seeing more and larger commercial-grade windows in offices and halls of temperature-controlled areas, especially those areas where doors in the halls are visible from highly traveled streets,” Hajewski says.
In addition to being developer-driven, the call for superior design is being steered by city-planning departments. “This is not a new trend, but rather the continuation of a trend that started long ago, when storage facilities began moving to high-quality locations instead of back-lot industrial sites,” Valli says. “The plain, utilitarian design trends of early generation facilities are gone in these areas.”
Essentially, better locations require improved design. “Storage buildings are increasingly retail in appearance, with large windows, bold building forms and bright colors,” Valli says. “The rule of thumb is that quality retail sites mandate quality retail design.”
Behind the Gate
Of course, superior design isn’t limited to the street view. What’s behind the gate is equally important. From the office through interior hallways to drive-up units, building exteriors and interiors are getting an overhaul. “Good lighting, white hallways and bright roll-up door colors continue to be popular everywhere,” Valli says. “Good ventilation also continues to be important, especially in cooler, damper climates.”
Sealing the concrete floor or painting hallway floors in bright colors not only makes for a more attractive area but keeps dust to a minimum, says Terry Campbell, executive vice president of operations and vice president of sales and marketing for BETCO Inc., a manufacturer of self-storage buildings. “This is beneficial from a customer’s and management’s perspective, as it will reduce the amount of cleaning needed in a unit between tenants moving in and out.”
Some builders are even adding brightly colored carpet to interior hallways, says Ted Culbreth, vice president of sales and marketing for Select Building Systems Inc., a design-build general contractor. “[It] promotes another thought when you walk into a carpeted area rather than bare concrete.”
Developers and owners are also choosing more durable materials to reduce maintenance and replacement costs. “The use of epoxy coatings on office floors and in corridors is one example,” Relf says.
In addition, because more than half of all self-storage customers are women, a well-lit facility with as much natural light as possible is important, Campbell says. “Proper lighting makes women feel safer, which will help them make the decision to rent from you. Colors that are pleasing to the eye will do the same. A lot of the time, renting units is about how someone feels about your facility, not just how much you charge.”
Metal self-storage buildings, an inherently green product, are being renovated and built with more eco-friendly materials and better applications. For example, higher levels of insulation are being used in the walls and roof, says Relf.
“Lighting is more efficient and cost-effective now with the advancement of energy-saving illumination technology,” Valli says. Many operators are replacing traditional light bulbs with LED lighting, and windows use tinted and double-pane glass to meet energy codes and minimize costs. Of course, all that natural light allowed by the windows reduces the need for artificial lighting, too.