The work environment has never been so unconventional. Returning to the office after the pandemic might be a competitive process as employers look for spaces that connect with employees uniquely. In Austin, Texas, a 5-story office building at 901 E. 6th Street does this while reflecting its residential surroundings. The design team selected Dri-Design Tapered Series Panels to create a unique structure that helps tenants feel at home while at work.

The East Austin 129,000-square-foot building brings together old and new characteristics with a mix of materials, like metal and timber, that will age and patina gracefully over time. The design team consisted of a joint venture between Thoughtbarn and Delineate Studio with RCH Studios as the Exterior Design Consultant.

Robert E. Gay, founder and co-director of the Thoughtbarn in Austin, says: “The design team was inspired by industrial warehouse buildings of the 20th century but wanted to express those sentiments with a contemporary approach. The use of cross-laminated timber panels and steel beams in the interior inspired a raw material palette for the exterior. The overall design team chose this direction with the A606 raw steel panels that would patina over the lifetime of the building.”

The building is clad in 27,000 square feet of 18-gauge steel Tapered Series Panels in Weathering Steel. The single-direction tapered panel was chosen and tiled in a running bond pattern around the building. Tapered Series Panels can angle in any direction with varying depths and degrees of slope. This freedom to design each specific panel gives the design team an unlimited capacity to create a dynamic, one-of-a-kind surface on nearly any façade, without the need to modify the substrate or weather barrier. ProCLAD Inc., Austin, supplied the panels.

“The design goal was to express a tapered panel that recalled the clapboard siding of the houses in the adjacent working-class neighborhood," Gay notes. "Emulating the tapered side of traditional housing types, and expressing it in a larger panel, added volume to the façade. The tapering of the panel, combined with using the A606 metal, meant that each panel would slightly patina at a different rate and different exposure, creating a unique façade."

The building was designed to LEED Gold standards. Metal adds LEED points to any project with its recycled content and recyclability. Other sustainable systems include passive design strategies, a VRF mechanical system, HVAC condensate collection for irrigation, below-grade parking, and tenant sub-metering systems.

"Dri-Design’s sustainable characteristics span from the panels themselves to the way they are manufactured," says Brad Zeeff, president of Dri-Design. "We purchase our aluminum from domestic mills, and we use highly automated equipment. This is our way of saving energy and material while lowering transportation and shipping costs. All Dri-Design wall panels use no joint sealants or gaskets, which are petroleum-based products, and they do not have a plastic core."

When socialization resumes, the building has a retracting 2-story glass door system in the lobby, large operable windows, high ceilings, and social workspaces on the first floor. To add environmental considerations and make the work-life balance easy, the building has a secure bike storage area, changing rooms with showers, and electric car plug-ins. The neighborhood provides easy interstate access and is near restaurants, retail, and all that makes Austin a hot destination for work and play.

For more information about the Dri-Design® Wall Panel System, visit