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Advanced Building Materials
The Benefits Of Insulated Metal Panels In Self-Storage Construction
By Karim Muri
outside front view of Life Storage facility

n the U.S. today, 1.8 billion square feet of self-storage space provides the ability to securely store belongings. The need for more storage units is growing along with rising populations and smaller living spaces. Downsizing, renovating, moving, and decluttering are just some of the reasons why more than a fifth (21 percent) of Americans currently use self-storage, and why another 15 percent say they intend to do so in the future.

The self-storage industry continues to grow, with new facilities under construction to meet the storage needs of an increasingly space constrained society.

Modern self-storage buildings have come a long way from their bland, boxy beginnings. Today, these facilities are constructed using advanced building materials like insulated metal panels (IMPs) to make them more aesthetically appealing, energy efficient, durable, and cost effective.

Growing Self-Storage Market
Consumer spending makes up around 70 percent of the American GDP. With Americans spending more on goods than ever before, the demand for self-storage facilities is rising.

In the U.S., the self-storage market size is currently valued at $44.37 billion and is expected to reach $49.88 billion in 2029, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.37 percent.

The growth of this market is reflected in the 262.4 million square feet of storage space built over the last five years–the equivalent of 14.6 percent of the total inventory. In 2023 alone, 50.5 million square feet of new storage space was delivered; another 54.4 million square feet is expected to be delivered in 2024, according to data from StorageCafe.

More Than Storage facility with drive in and lobby
Evolution Of Storage Facilities
Storage facilities have existed since ancient times. Some early civilizations stored personal belongings in large ceramic pots buried in the ground. In ancient Rome, storehouses were constructed to preserve food and keep precious possessions safe.

Modern self-storage was introduced in U.S. in the late 1800s by Bekin Van Lines, which built the first concrete and steel warehouse for storage. Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, as highways expanded throughout the nation and people began moving more, storage facilities really began to take off.

Today, modern storage facilities have evolved to offer climate-controlled units that maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels to prevent moisture from damaging items. Storage facilities are also now specifically designed to hold boats and RVs, and other specialized facilities are popping up across the nation to store sensitive items such as wine, artwork, and antiques. One of the latest storage facility trends to emerge is the construction of multiuse facilities that incorporate retail spaces, cafés, or workspaces with storage facilities in one structure.

Building Material Of Choice
As storage facilities continue to evolve, IMPs are a building envelope solution that meets the requirements of these types of facilities. IMPs are exterior wall and roof panels with steel skins and an insulating foam core. Because of their excellent thermal properties and design flexibility, IMPs are increasingly becoming the building envelope material of choice in the construction of storage facilities. These panels are helping transform self-storage facilities, delivering outstanding thermal performance to satisfy increasingly stringent local building code requirements while allowing architects and designers to create structures that deliver high-end design. That’s critical in an environment where approval from local municipalities for construction of these facilities can come with requirements for visually appealing designs to prevent plain industrial boxes from blemishing a suburb’s streetscape.
Advantages Of IMPs
With exceptional design flexibility, superior thermal performance, durability, ease of installation, and more, IMPs offer many advantages over other conventional building envelope systems in the construction of self-storage facilities.

Design Flexibility
IMPs offer architects design flexibility. These panels come in a wide range of profiles and patterns, color options, textures, and finishes that can be customized to fit any project’s design aesthetic.

With IMPs, designers have considerable freedom to vary the size, dimensions, and orientation of the panels. Different sizes can be integrated within the same façade to create a dynamic pattern and unusual geometries from jutting angular designs to sweeping curves, with IMPs oriented horizontally or vertically.

IMPs can also be seamlessly integrated with wall and roof accessories like daylight and wall light systems, louvers, and sunshades.

With many design possibilities, IMPs can be used to create a distinctive look that reflects a storage facility’s brand image and to integrate with a location’s aesthetic.

outside front view of Vaultra Storage facility
Thermal Performance
The exceptional thermal insulation capabilities of IMPs make them ideal in the construction of storage facilities where climate control is essential. Featuring a core of continuous, rigid insulation, IMPs achieve the R-values needed to maintain a stable interior environment regardless of external weather conditions, helping to ensure that specific temperature and humidity level requirements are met to protect stored items from damage.

IMPs are a single component building enclosure system featuring high levels of thermal insulation. While other insulations may have to use double layers or more expensive, higher-density materials to meet the thermal code requirements, IMPs are a high-performing, all-in-one solution for meeting stringent thermal performance requirements required by building codes.

Remaining air and weathertight over the life of a building, IMPs also help reduce the amount of energy required to keep storage units climate controlled, which helps reduce heating and cooling costs for storage facilities.

Embodied Carbon
Because buildings are a major contributor to global climate change and waste production, many architects are taking a greener approach in storage building design and material selections. That includes selecting IMPs with low levels of embodied carbon. These panels are a material choice that can meet or exceed current energy codes and contribute toward achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Building Rating System.

Remaining air and weathertight over the life of a building, IMPs also help reduce the amount of energy required to keep storage units climate controlled, which helps reduce heating and cooling costs for storage facilities.
Today, IMPs are playing a role in climate-conscious building practices to help the self-storage industry achieve net-zero energy and carbon-neutral targets. The high R-values and thermal performance offered by these panels help deliver improved energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption and lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Constructed of durable steel and designed to last for decades, IMPs can handle inclement weather while remaining air and watertight. IMPs can stand up to the wear and tear of all types of buildings and can be manufactured with special coatings that withstand heavy cleaning and sanitation. This durability ensures that self-storage buildings retain their aesthetic appeal and structural integrity for decades, reducing the need for frequent renovations or repairs.

Speedy Installation And Cost Savings
IMP are quicker to install than traditional multicomponent site-built wall and roof enclosure systems. Requiring only one type of installer instead of multiple trades to attach to the structural framing, IMPs provide a weathertight building envelope in a fraction of the time compared to conventional multicomponent systems.

Accelerating speed of build with IMPs creates construction efficiencies that result in labor cost savings and faster dry-in of projects, which allows inside work to begin sooner. The increased build speed of these panels helps construction projects stay on track, resulting in reduced downtime and a better chance of on-time project completion.

As the self-storage industry continues to grow and more self-storage facilities are constructed, IMPs will continue to be the building envelope solution of choice to make these facilities more aesthetically appealing, energy efficient, durable, and cost effective.

Karim Muri is vice president of marketing services and strategy development for Kingspan Insulated Panels North America. Muri has led strategic marketing in the construction products market for nearly 20 years. His global experience includes leadership roles in Australia and the United States, working in both the residential and commercial building sectors.