Lush Landscape Design for Self-Storage Facilities: Curb-Appeal Tips From an Architect

In this Q&A, landscape architect Matthew R. Copp addresses the role of landscaping in today's self-storage facility design, offering advice on curb appeal, eco-friendly accents, trends and more.

April 28, 2014

4 Min Read
Lush Landscape Design for Self-Storage Facilities: Curb-Appeal Tips From an Architect

A self-storage facility’s landscape often plays a vital role in its curb appeal. With operators facing more competition every day, an inviting design is one way to stand out. While many might think an abundance of shrubs, flowers and grassy areas are needed to create a welcoming space, landscape design can actually be subtle and still make a huge impact.

Inside Self-Storage recently talked shop with principal landscape architect Matthew R. Copp of MRC Landscape Architecture, which offers professional landscape-design services for commercial and residential applications. Copp is also a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, a professional organization that represents the profession of landscape architecture. In this Q&A, he addresses the role of landscaping in today's self-storage facility design, offering advice on curb appeal, eco-friendly accents, trends and more.

What role does landscape design play in the design of a storage facility?

Generally, what I’ve seen is the landscape design at self-storage facilities are, first, a product of the requirements of the landscape ordinance in the municipality where the facility is located. If the owner has chosen to do additional landscaping above and beyond the requirements, it’s generally simple foundation plantings along the side of the building addressing the street or at the entrance to the facility.

Most of the larger facilities I’ve seen are in commercial or industrial areas where the buildings are utilitarian in their façade design, or the facility has been an adaptive reuse of an existing building such as an old warehouse or factory that has very limited landscaping. In other words, the owners don't seem to put much emphasis on curb appeal because of their location.

Conversely, I’ve seen smaller facilities that are more of a neighborhood business where the owner has put a nice façade on the building and installed lots of landscaping to give the facility additional curb appeal to fit within the neighborhood or business district. I’ve spoken with owners/operators and customers of self-storage facilities, and the curb appeal has never been a reason for a customer to rent or not rent at the facility.

Again, the trend in landscape design comes down to what the owner is required to do per the local municipality's landscape ordinances. Above and beyond those requirements, owners typically request that the majority of any additional landscape plantings be limited to the side of the property that addresses the street frontage or screens any unsightly views from customers' eyes. More specifically, owners generally request the design and plant palette require minimal water consumption and maintenance long-term, and are hardy enough to withstand the conditions in which they are planted or subjected.

I’m beginning to see the incorporation of green building techniques such as native plantings and wildflower/meadow planting designs, porous pavement in lieu of nonporous pavement, and bio-swales and rain gardens into these facilities because of new ordinances requiring reduced nonporous pavement areas and storm water run-off, as well as more owners wanting to build greener buildings and sites. Self-storage facilities are excellent for incorporating some of these practices because they have large pavement and roof areas that contribute to storm water run-off. They generally have a limited number of daily visitors and are normally in locations where having a more natural and less manicured appearance would be more acceptable to the general public.

What are the benefits of xeriscape?

First, there's a reduction in water required to sustain the plants. Second, there's a reduction in the amount of maintenance required. Third, there are reduced long-term costs associated with reduced water consumption and recurring maintenance.

There are many ways owners can "green" their facilities, from using geo-thermal heat sources for climate control to using porous pavement on non-driveway/loading-dock areas to using rain gardens or bio-swales to control storm-water run-off. One excellent technique owners should consider using more frequently is placing extensive green roofs on their facilities. Not only will they reduce storm-water run-off, they'll also aid in keeping the facility's interior units cooler during the summer months.

What advice can you give about creating an inviting landscape for a self-storage facility?

Designing and implementing an attractive landscape and keeping it maintained and manicured will not only help in marketing their business, it will likely attract higher-quality customers and give an appearance that the owner takes pride in the facility and values customers. Even simply designed landscapes can be inviting if correctly installed and maintained.

Owners should consult with or hire an individual or company licensed and credentialed in landscape design or landscape architecture. They should also consider someone who has a strong knowledge of plants and horticulture and can provide the design of an inviting landscape using appropriate design techniques and the correct plant materials.

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