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. Lets take a closer look at how building materials can enhance a facilitys 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 products 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).
Split-faced CMU is a product thats representational of stone and can be used in conjunction with smooth-faced CMU to create interesting textures. All CMU products are porous and need to be finished with a paint or waterproof finish. Elastomeric paint is an economical product that results in a masonry system that projects the joints and masonry characteristics. Synthetic stucco finish coat, or exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS), can be used over the masonry to eliminate joints and simulate a stucco wall system. CMU is a great middle-ground product from a cost standpoint that can be used to meet design standards in many regions if designed with detail in mind.
Since the structural nature of self-storage is a repetitive light-gauge steel, roof systems are best designed with a low slope that can make them virtually disappear from eye level. From an architectural standpoint, the use of metal in roofing is aesthetic and functional. While the main body of the roof is not seen, entries can be emphasized with canopy roof elements. These canopies can add to the design and protect entry doors and windows from the elements, including rain, snow and sun.
Other Exterior Structures
Exterior emphasis at the parapets walls can be accomplished with a cornice of EIFS. The synthetic stucco can create a horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building. As an example, an EIFS wall that transitions from a textured stucco material to a smooth cornice is representational of cast stone but in a cost-effective application.
Design restrictions often limit signage on buildings; therefore, using towers as design elements can create a focal point better than any sign you can buy. A vertical design element that draws your eye to the building and says self-storage is a great solution. Simplistic text signage used in conjunction with roll-up doors says self-storage to all passersby.
Windows and glazing can be employed as a safety feature and a design tool. Once inside a facility, you feel as though youre in somewhat of a storage maze. Use of glass at entry doors and at the ends of corridors not only allows natural light into your building but creates a feeling of a safer environment for tenants.
An architect can also creatively incorporate glazing into your entry element with storefront applications. The use of colored glazing and roll-up doors behind a storefront system can add interest and define the self-storage product.
A balance between visibility, quality and cost is always a challenge. For the vast majority of self-storage buildings, simplistic design and materials should be used. However, the use of high-quality materials and intricate details can take curb appeal to a whole new level. The architects creativity emphasizes your product by defining a focal point in which multiple materials can be used in concert with each other, with an outcome of superior self-storage design.
Jeffrey S. Dallenbach is an architect and founder of Archcon Architecture and Archcon Design Build, which provide all levels of architecture, engineering and turnkey projects. The companys award-winning projects range from single-story, ambient buildings to highly articulated, multi-story, climate-controlled facilities. Archcons hybrid approach to design-build leads to repeat clients and long-term relationships. For more information, call 210.493.2234; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.archconarchitecture.com .