Storelocal Team Mar 23, 2022 12:22:00 PM 13 min read

Trends in Self Storage Building Design and Aesthetics

Self storage facilities have always filled a need, but in the past, often little thought was put into design outside of security features. After all, most were located in industrial areas on the outskirts of town, so “looking pretty” wasn’t a top priority. Today, many self storage facilities are moving into more commercial and even residential areas, and this has necessitated a change in self storage building designs and aesthetics. 

Importance of Self Storage Building Designs and Aesthetics

By making self storage designs more visually appealing, developers can bring in new tenants while appeasing sometimes resistant communities and codes. A feasibility study can help self-storage architects and developers better understand the community, determining whether there’s likely to be push-back from the local government or even housing associations. It can also uncover potential zoning issues or rules that dictate how property can or cannot be used (and whether rezoning would be an option). 

To gain development approval, modern design is becoming more and more popular. This involves using sleek lines and clean surfaces that convey organization and freshness. In addition, a warmer, more natural color palette that incorporates glass has replaced the traditional bright, eye-popping colors once associated with self storage.

Of course, a modern makeover isn’t always the way to go. When moving into commercial and residential areas, many municipalities require facilities to look like something other than self-storage, such as an apartment complex or even a strip mall. In these cases, modern design can stick out like a sore thumb. Facilities opening their doors in these areas generally adopt the architecture of the adjacent community; they may even add balconies, shutters, and plant ledges to mingle better with the locals. Modern design will often be frowned upon in older neighborhoods or historic districts, where new structures may be required to use materials that match the look of the neighborhood, such as limestone and masonry. 

Even self storage facilities that are forced outside of town are changing their look. Though they may be far from the city center, they’re often located off a major roadway, considered a “community gateway” that can be the first few things people see when entering the area. So, these too need high-quality design and eye appeal. Top-of-the-line materials, commercial storefront windows, dramatic nighttime lighting, and custom details are all used, even while blocking views to storage doors.

We’ve highlighted a few trends for self storage building design based on location already, but here’s a look at eight more trends that are taking off. 

1. Smaller Sites/Multi-Stories

Large development sites can be hard to come by in urban areas, resulting in smaller sites and “infill sites,” which are nestled between existing buildings. Lack of space and the need to conform to zoning boards have also led to more multi-story self storage building designs. Often, these urban self storage facilities will have a fancy ground-floor lobby with elevators providing tenants with easy access to their storage units. 

2. Eco-Friendly Designs

Although economic policy and the demand for sustainability have been the key drivers of more energy-efficient buildings, some owners and managers are realizing that green buildings also attract more – and better – tenants. While self storage is already somewhat sustainable, consuming less energy than office buildings, restaurants, and retail, more developers are now working with self storage architects certified by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 

LEED Certified buildings significantly improve efficiency, consuming on average 25% less energy and 11% less water than non-green buildings. A LEED-certified architect can advise on greener solutions, for example, energy-efficient air conditioning units and lighting, foam-panel walls to conserve energy, and white-painted roofs to keep buildings cooler. Eco-friendly fiberglass siding is another material gaining in popularity. It can be painted or stained and comes in a variety of textures and widths. While installation takes a little more work, it’s tough, durable, and has a long life.

3. Niche Storage

In some areas, operating a niche self storage facility can be very lucrative. For example, boat and RV storage in areas where those hobbies are popular. But some facilities are drilling down even further with their ​​storage unit designs. Take Domaine Wine Storage, for example. This national facility provides business owners and wine connoisseurs a place to store their vintage and expensive wines in perfectly climate-controlled conditions. They also provide tools and workspace for tenants to manage their collection, complimentary wine receiving, and more.

4. Connected Units

Much like the previous example, some storage facilities are marketing to small businesses by providing connected units that open into each other. In these facilities, one unit serves as storage while the other is used for “office space.” While this requires some unique storage facility layout, this isn’t to say a tenant will work 9-5 from the office-area unit (self-storage units are generally not zoned for occupancy or business activity). However, they might wrap and pack shipments, do inventory and some paperwork, and so on. These facilities often offer printing and faxing services, along with mail services and delivery holding, providing additional benefit. Connected units are especially popular with entrepreneurs launching small businesses and ecommerce businesses.

5. Greenery

Green is good not just for efficiency, but as an overall look as well! Self storage design that is located outside of town without any impressive multi-story buildings may want to consider a rural theme. This could mean giving the facility a winding cottage-style entrance, with trees, well-manicured hedges, and perhaps a garden. To keep your greenery “green,” consider adding water-catching systems, which collect water from rooftops and divert it to plants and flowerbeds.

6. Glass

Glass may not be your go-to thought when it comes to self storage facility design due to security concerns and elemental damage, but more self storage facilities are using it in visible areas to convey a professional and welcoming ambiance. Most commonly, glass and other transparent materials are used in entryways, and faux windows may be incorporated elsewhere. 

7. Vertical Structures

Although internet reviews are becoming more widely used when people are selecting a self storage facility (be sure to read our blog on how to get reviews), visibility remains key because many potential tenants still choose a facility after seeing it from the road. Of course, finding these primo spots can be pricey. So, many self storage designs have begun to add vertical architecture to the top of their buildings which allows them to display their names. A clock tower is always a popular option, as it’s classic and professional, but others may choose a structure that represents their location, such as a lighthouse in coastal areas. Raised canopies are another stylish option.

8. Repurposing/Conversions

Not every self storage development project starts from the ground-up. Conversions, or taking an existing building that was used for some other purpose and transforming it into a self-storage facility, are also becoming popular. Developers are now taking vacant buildings (often those left behind due to the decline in big-box retail) and turning them into self storage facilities. Some of the more unique self storage facility designs actually came about by breathing new life into vacant factories and churches, and anywhere with lots of old-fashioned brickwork. 

Self Storage Design Example: National Self Storage–Dove Mountain

Looking for a facility that incorporates some of the self storage building design highlighted here? Look no further than Storelocal co-op member National Self Storage–Dove Mountain. The modern and sophisticated facility, located in Marana, Arizona, is a past recipient of the prestigious Facility of the Year award by Mini-Storage Messenger magazine for all-around excellence in design, construction, and technology.

National Self Storage Dove MountainNational Self Storage–Dove Mountain, operated by Strat Property Management Inc., offers more than 60,000 square feet of rental space incorporating the most advanced smart technology as well as upscale design elements modeled after the surrounding affluent Tucson residential community and the nearby Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

Marrying the best of aesthetics and function, National Self Storage-Dove Mountain blends Tenant™ technology, pioneered by industry co-op Storelocal, with resort-like accents that remove the stark impression commonly associated with self-storage facilities. Renters enter a welcoming lobby containing kiosks for paperless transacting, with onsite team members offering as little or as much assistance as desired. Warm paint colors and street signs within the facility guide the way to a renter’s unit, creating a sense of home and community. Read more about this unique self storage facility design and get inspired!