The Impact of Self-Storage Building Materials: Creating Harmony Between Aesthetics, Function and Cost

The materials you choose to build your new self-storage facility will impact a number of project components and forces. When in harmony, aesthetics, function and cost will produce lasting beauty and longevity.

August 13, 2016

5 Min Read
The Impact of Self-Storage Building Materials: Creating Harmony Between Aesthetics, Function and Cost

By Ryan Rogers

The materials chosen to construct a new self-storage facility impact a number of project components and forces. These forces are woven together similar to the threads of a spider web—when one thread is pulled, the rest will move. Successfully weaving the web of materials into the greater whole of the building is what creates a beautiful, well-performing and cost-effective project.

While materiality can be waxed on poetically, I’ll distill it to three factors: aesthetics, function and cost. When these work in harmony, they produce lasting beauty and building longevity.


The aesthetic quality of your components impacts many of the building’s users. New construction and additions have the opportunity to attract new customers with beautiful buildings comprised of a wide variety of materials. Understanding the psychological impact of these choices will allow you to tailor your project to the neighborhood it serves.

Using ground-face and split-face concrete masonry unit creates articulation and dynamism at nominal cost.For example, masonry creates a paradigm of soundness and longevity for the customer, and may even impart a feeling of safety and security. Metal wall panels, which are also popular, are available in an array of forms—corrugated or smooth, with concealed or exposed fasteners, etc. The calculated use of smooth, concealed-fastener panels harkens to contemporary design styles with an eye toward the future. This can create the perception of innovation and dynamism, communicating to customers that your facility is on the cutting edge of the industry and, as such, a successful leader.

Corrugated, exposed metal panels create the sensation of gritty economy where beauty is found in the honest simplicity of the panel, which can evoke a perception of the same. These are just a few of the many materials developers are adding to their projects to create unique and attractive structures.


While the aesthetic quality of materials can impact customers, functionality is equally important. Functionality is a broad term that covers performance abilities, maintenance characteristics, wearability and code compliance. It’s important to choose materials that will provide minimal maintenance and have a long life span.

Masonry is a robust material that resists damage and lasts decades. However, if it’s used at loading locations or near drive-up doors, it’s susceptible to being hit by vehicles and can be expensive to repair; whereas metal wall panels will last for decades and can be easily replaced if damaged.

As more cities adopt the most current energy codes, the efficiency of using load-bearing masonry in temperature-controlled buildings is negated due to the requirement for continuous insulation. If you’re building in a jurisdiction applying the latest codes, a veneer system will be preferable over load-bearing masonry due to greater cost-efficiency and available floor area (because of thinner walls).

It’s also important to note that many cities and counties have minimum requirements for masonry and transparency—windows—in an effort to beautify their neighborhoods. Thorough research by your design professional of local planning ordinances is critical for smooth entitlement of your project. Diligent research of city materials requirements will minimize redesign during the planning-review process and reduce schedule delays to meet city codes.


As more jurisdictions adopt provisions to upgrade building appearance, development costs can increase. Many cities have minimum transparency requirements, so it’s important you’re aware of the implications of certain window assemblies from a cost perspective. For example, if your design specifies a curtain-wall system—windows that span multiple floors—to appease the city, your costs will have increased roughly 30 percent over a standard storefront system in which windows span only a single floor.

Masonry can be upgraded from split-face or smooth-face block to ground-face for a nominal premium. This provides greater options for masonry articulation, creating a dynamic façade that can be more appealing to customers and meet city requirements.

Long-Term Success

The demand for beautiful, long-lasting self-storage buildings is on the rise, from both municipalities and customers. Enhancing the aesthetic of your project with well-thought materials selection can help you solicit new prospects and widen your customer base. Many cities are also requiring enhanced building design for planning approval. Capitalizing on municipal requirements and your customers’ preferences can create a synergy that will propel your project toward success.

Extra Space Storage in Denver uses concrete masonry unit, brick and various metal-wall panels to create a highly articulated and beautiful façade. (Photo courtesy of Kiwi II Construction Inc.)Maintaining this success long after lease-up is also made easier by the right building materials. Lasting components that wear well over time, resist damage and are easily reparable will reduce maintenance costs and allow for simpler facility management. Weaving together aesthetics, function and cost will create a facility that’s pleasing to the eye and attracts customers. In addition to appeasing municipalities and code authorities, it can be more cost-effective and easy to maintain for years of successful operation.

Ryan Rogers is the director of preconstruction at DCB Construction Co. Inc., where he oversees each project from initial client contact through building permits and is responsible for their overall success, including schedule and budget. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental design in architecture and a master’s degree in architecture, and has accreditation in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and green building. Founded in 1960 and based in Denver, DCB is a design-build general contractor that specializes in the design and construction of commercial, industrial and multi-story self-storage buildings. For more information, call 303.287.5525; visit

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