Innovation in Storage

ODA Architecture has been innovators in storage design for 40 years. I met Steve Benson, founder of Morningstar Storage, in 1983. Mr. Benson was one of the original innovators of the storage industry, a business that had been typified as a male-oriented “dirty” use. In 1979, Steve Benson moved south to Charlotte the same year that I moved north to Charlotte. I am privileged to have learned so much from Mr. Benson. He taught me how to look at ordinary industries differently and improve them by being ethical and listening to your customers. Mr. Benson passed away three years ago this month and left a legacy of innovation in the storage industry.

When Morningstar Storage was established in 1981, the need for storage was targeted to men. Mr. Benson realized that women had valuable heirlooms that needed to be stored and women needed to feel safe when entering storage buildings. Barbed wire fences were replaced with nicely landscaped lawns and flowers at entrances. Historically, storage was in industrial parks “out by the airport”.  Morningstar Storage started opening landscaped storage “parks” closer to residential neighborhoods. The design of the buildings were upgraded to appear more residential than the typical “corrugated metal trains”.
I met with Mr. Benson in ODA’s first loft office in the middle 1980s and Steve started one of his many “what-if” conversations which I always enjoyed.  He started doodling and asked why storage couldn’t be multi-story and look like sculpture or “works of art” on the exterior, with storage lockers on the interior. Of course, I thought that he was nuts, but he was actually 20 years ahead of his time.
In the mid-1990’s, Morningstar started constructing 2-story multi-story facilities. Going vertical with storage has now evolved into 3-7 story “works of art”. Morningstar introduced other innovations that are being popularized, such as re-purposing buildings into climate controlled storage. Morningstar converted grocery stores into storage, but this concept has evolved into re-purposing multi-story office buildings, retail buildings and historic mills.
The storage industry is embracing environmentally friendly practices such as the integration of green roofs and solar panels on the roofs to lessen their carbon footprints. Recycled materials are being used in the construction of storage facilities, as well as LED lighting on motion sensors and high-seer mechanical equipment. To be good stewards of the earth, Morningstar Storage has used crushed bottles (post-consumer waste) in their concrete flooring.
The storage industry continues to expand and innovate as clean, family-friendly storage facilities are growing in popularity. Storage facilities are becoming mixed-use and starting to tap into robotic technologies. Morningstar Storage, headquartered in Matthews, NC, will continue to be leaders in the storage industry.  Mr. Benson’s son, David, is continuing the Morningstar legacy of ethics, art and innovation. ODA Architecture is proud to have grown with Morningstar through the lessons of Mr. Benson, a true innovator and gentleman is pictured below.

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