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Adding a see-through carwash

October 11, 2010
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Reader Question: I’m looking to add a see-through carwash to my convenience store. What are some things I need to consider when making this type of investment?

Robert Pegnato: Consider the issues that are critical to your success:

  • Attractiveness;
  • Building; and
  • Retaining a loyal customer base.

With a see-through building, you are taking the initiative by providing customers with a bright, well-lit and safe environment. This is especially important in the evening when your glass enclosure is illuminated from the inside because it will drive attention to your operation.

After that, it’s up to you to provide consistent value to your customers that distinguish you from the local competition.

See-through structures offer advantages over conventional buildings in multiple aspects including simplified construction, increased curb appeal, and even tax advantages.

Unlike conventional buildings, see-through structures are that of a modular design. While each structure is designed to fit your needs, the entire design-build process is streamlined, saving significant time and money.

Perhaps the greatest motivation behind carwash owners to build a see-through structure is curb appeal. See through structures offer a sleek looking, clean, safe carwash environment, ultimately influencing drivers to visit.

Lastly, modular construction often receives favorable tax treatment (due to accelerated depreciation) which can be significant to you, the owner.

The footprint of see-through structures can fit (or replace) any existing location and expand accordingly. Options include long wash bays, equipment rooms and self serve bays in a number of different configurations.

Since modular see-through buildings are structurally engineered (and stamped) for the snow and wind loads for each specific location, it will hold up to the conditions as well as any conventional structure.

The “R-Value” is of course different for a glass building with a polycarbonate or acrylic roof. It’s not as energy efficient, but in the heat of summer, the doors and vents are wide open, and the environment will not be air-conditioned.

Likewise, in the winter, the internal temperature just above the freezing point and quite often, the solar gain from the translucent roof more than offsets additional energy costs.

As with any building project, there are costs related to permitting, site improvements and foundation. Careful consideration should be given to selecting the see-through structure provider willing to take responsibility for the entire design-build process, ultimately eliminating inefficiencies and costly mistakes.

Typically, the see-through structure provider furnishes the structure(s), complete with glazing, erected on site by its contractors who also provide heating, lighting, doors, signage and other accessories as specified by the owner. While structure providers can also provide broader project management services, owners are always encouraged to work with general contractors to coordinate site improvements, equipment and building installations.

Robert Pegnato is Manager of RBI Structures. He can be reached at 800.543.7351. Visit their website at

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