Car Wash Site - Image and Layout
The Building as Brand Image
Architect's drawing: west elevation (Center)
West elevation rendering (Bottom) West elevation - the real
This project got its start when Tim Bednar, one of the owners,
approached CamargoCopeland Architects with an idea for a car wash
that he intended to develop in a growing area of Plano, TX, a northern
suburb of Dallas. Tim wanted a facility that would fill the gap
in the local car wash market, maximize his funding, and still be
a "cut above" those offering an express car wash service.
The owners knew going into the project that they wanted to set their
concept apart from the competition not only
in terms of service, but also architecturally. That is why they
approached CamargoCopeland Architects, a firm capable of and experienced
with prototype image development, rather than an architect experienced
solely with the production of car washes.
In a competitive retail market, visibility and brand recognition
is critical for a newcomer. You must be noticed! But not just noticed
-you must stand out in the sea of signs, retail centers and visual
clutter that abounds in every suburban retail district. One way
of distinguishing your brand is to turn your building into an icon
-interesting, visible, and brand solidifying.
As ever-increasing signage restrictions become the norm, the building's
form has become more and more important to savvy retailers when
considering branding. One inherent question that was considered
at the early stages of development of the Fountain Car Wash project
was how to create a structure that proclaims "car wash"
in a unique and satisfying way. Our goal was to create a dynamic
visual icon that was architecturally successful and easily identifiable
by the consumer.
BUILDING AS ICON
CamargoCopeland approached the building's design by capitalizing
on the owners' idea and their chosen name, Fountain Car Wash. We
needed an icon to express the branding of the building - a device
that evoked water and movement. The "Fountain" is represented
through the concept of a wave, similar to that created by water
as it is falling into a fountain basin.
While there were many building elements that we could have utilized
to represent this concept, we chose the roof as our instrument for
the analogy of the use of water and the associated activity occurring
within the building. The roof was the most impactful of the available
options as all of Fountain Car Wash's core business (the water tunnel)
occurred under this very roof.
The roof was formed into the shape of a wave using a web-polymer
roofing material placed on an undulating steel structure of rolled
pipe. The polymer roofing is a translucent material that allows
natural day lighting during the day and, through artificial up-lighting,
affords a warm glow during dusk and night times. Using the roof
as the focal point, CamargoCopeland achieved the owner's brand recognition
goal by providing eye candy to the potential consumers passing by
at 40 miles per hour.
There are two other main elements within the building:
o The manager's office and equipment room form the backdrop for
o The attendant's station is positioned within the tower/signage
All of the structural walls are split-faced concrete masonry units,
giving the entire building a water-resistant and durable envelope,
as well as an upgraded finish and visual texture.
The self-service portions of the facility were placed to the rear
of the building so that the natural progression of the site would
be ordered -automated car wash, vacuums, and then self-serve car
wash. Vending is integrated into the automated car wash and at the
self-serve car wash, thus ensuring convenient access to vending
from each facility.
One issue that was affected by the proposed design of the building
was the building's site orientation. With a design element such
as the roof, would the normal orientation convention of facing the
exit portal to the street be suitable? This led to further discussion
on the issues of car queuing and its pros and cons. The main question:
Is it good for the customer to see cars lining up at the facility?
Will our audience interpret the queue as "open for business"
or "the line is too long - I don't want to wait."
The industry standard has always oriented the site such that the
building is perpendicular to the street: the dirty cars queue up
at the back of the lot out of consumer sight lines and customers
view only the clean cars coming out of the tunnel. This orientation
has been the norm in the industry because of the idea that clean
cars leaving the facility will generate a flurry of activity and
stir excitement within the target consumers. Ultimately, the queuing
of the cars became a non-issue for Fountain Car Wash.
CamargoCopeland and the owners decided to orient the building close
and parallel to the street and allow visual access into the building
across its entire length. By lining the length of the building with
storefront windows, the building becomes the focus and consumer
excitement is centered on the visible washing activity within the
building, rather than cars entering or leaving the building. The
massing of the equipment room quickly developed as a backdrop to
the wave while the attendant's station evolved into a "bookend"
Philosophically, the owners bought into the concept that the visual
interest in the perspective of the wave and the opportunity to showcase
the movement of cars being washed would be just as powerful,
if not more so, in generating traffic. This break in tradition for
site orientation allowed our team to further develop the concept
of the building as an icon.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
How does the building say "open for business"? To enhance
its visibility to passing motorists, CamargoCopeland accentuated
the image of the "wave" by raising the roof plate at the
equipment room. Additionally, the street-side wall is a viewing
wall, with glass along the entire length allowing the inner workings
of the wash to be visible. Special lighting was added to emphasize
the movement within the water tunnel during dusk and evenings when
the natural light level is low. After hours, the building serves
as its own billboard, and a standing icon of Fountain Car Wash.
Some of the logistical issues explored during the project were
whether the site was large enough to accommodate an iconic building,
potential traffic dimensions, and the myriad of self-service stations.
Once the site orientation was decided, there were the choices of
roof options - to wave or not to wave - and selecting the kind of
material that would best serve the owners' needs, both functionally
CamargoCopeland addressed the site size issues by using computer
modeling, as well as utilizing a full-scale model of the driving
areas needed. By utilizing the top level of the parking garage deck
next to our offices, we were not only able to drive the proposed
course, but were also able to view the course from eight floors
above, giving us a unique vantage point of the proposed site plan.
This was critical due to the constraints of the site. "Rule-of-thumb"
traffic dimension such as lane widths and turning radii standards
could not be relied upon with the complexities of the conveyor track
system and today's large pick-ups and SUVs. We also went to the
site and drew the turning radii in chalk and test-drove on site
the largest SUV to make sure the building would fit on the site.
To explore the building's potential as an icon, CamargoCopeland
utilized computer-generated and physical modeling to study building
massing and sight-line issues and opportunities.
We also used these tools to study the building and its details
with different roofing options and solutions - which validated the
effectiveness of the building "wave" as an icon.
As with all projects, the contributing parties make the difference.
With clients who were willing to push
for a strong design solution, Fountain Car Wash came to life as
a fun and dynamic project whose architecture speaks to its function,
and evokes from every passerby: "I want to go there!"
Ed Copeland is a registered architect and the partner in charge
of retail development at CamargoCopeland Architects, LLP. Ed's background
is in construction and technology and has degrees from the University
of Texas at Arlington and the University of Houston.
CamargoCopeland Architects, LLP
E. J. Copeland, AIA - Partner in Charge
Barry Hand, AIA - Design Architect & Associate
Randy Barnett - Project Manager
The Structural Engineering Consultants - Greg Riley
Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing Engineering
Don Penn Consulting Engineers - Don Penn
Helmberger & Associates - Joe Helmberger
Automated car wash facility - automated tunnel
Upscale facility on major thoroughfare
Limited site area
Covered vacuum stations - approximately 15
Covered self-wash stations - approximately 6 to 8