Metal Architecture Home

Welcome Addition

Triple-story curtainwall and framed canopy establish a complementary, unique structure

Utdstudent May18 2

Richardson, Texas-based The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) has had growing pains. In the seven years since the construction of its original student services building, university enrollment has grown by nearly 10,000 students. To accommodate this boom, the college has a new, 74,764-square-foot, four-story student services addition that serves not only as an addendum to the existing facility, but also a complementary structure with its own unique program.

A two-story common area occupies the space adjacent to the primary entrance and the link to the adjacent building. Within this open volume are areas that provide interaction spaces that offer various student activities positioned by the window walls, while a communication stair leads to the destinations above. Also featured within the building are a 530-seat auditorium, food and retail locations, and a gaming wall.


UT Dallas wanted a signature building. Zinc accomplished this goal by complementing the existing building material palette, while establishing an identity for the new building addition. The design team needed a material that would give them the freedom and opportunity to create without necessarily incurring additional cost. “Since metal panels come in wide variety of sizes,  colors and profiles, they were the prime candidate for exterior cladding,” says Ali Mojdehi, architectural designer at Jacobs, Dallas.


“Zinc and its visual properties provide a richness that is not present in other materials. Its varied patina exhibits a texture to the façade that generates interest.”

Holland, Mich.-based Dri-Design manufactured and clad the student center’s entire skin with 32,000 square feet of Raleigh, N.C.-based Umicore Building Products USA Inc.'s VMZINC Series ANTHRA-ZINC. Dri-Design also provided early design assistance with the architectural and construction team to maximize the zinc material and ensure optimal efficiency for manufacturing. Roughly 50 tons of ANTHRA-ZINC was required, which had a very long lead time. The coordination of material procurement, manufacturing and delivery of panels to the job site took careful planning to make sure they were delivered and installed within the general contractor’s schedule. The general contractor was JE Dunn Construction Group Inc., Austin, Texas, and the metal installer was Baker Triangle Inc., Mesquite, Texas.

Leonardo Diaz, national design principal at Jacobs, calls the new building “striking in its modernity” and says it reflects the culture of the university. The front/south elevation is a triple-story curtainwall framed by thick zinc panels that protrude past the façade face. “With the entry offset to the side of the building, the frame returns above the entry, creating a secondary canopy, giving this façade its unique feature,” he says. “This canopy does double duty as an aesthetic feature as well as a way to shade visitors from the harsh Texas sun and rain.”

The framed canopy extends along the east and west elevations, wrapping the structure and giving it a sleek, modern look. “As it extends along the west façade, the metal panels cover an exterior walkway that leads to the ramp, which has a sleek, metal panel canopy above it shielding the visitors below and breaking up that elevation,” Diaz says. “The north elevation is an elegant design with a metal panel canopy shading the back entrance.” Initially the design team envisioned the entry canopy to be completely wrapped by zinc panels. However, it chose to use a low-slope, single-ply roof.

Rick Dempsey, associate vice president for facilities management at UT Dallas, says the biggest building problem was a very congested site in the middle of campus. “Additionally, on a generally flat campus, the site had a significant grade change and numerous underground utilities,” he says. “We developed alternate pedestrian pathways to move the students around the site to their desired locations and scheduled roadway shutdowns at low activity periods.”


Zinc is a 100 percent recyclable product and requires almost no maintenance. It’s not susceptible to rust or corrosion. It’s weatherproof, corrosion resistant and immune to the harmful effects of UV rays, ensuring a very long life without degradation. “The energy required to manufacture zinc panels is lower than any other metal used in building envelope applications,” says Frank Rascoe, regional design principal at Jacobs. “In addition, the MEP systems have a high degree of energy efficiency, we used locally sourced and recycled materials, and the glazing system is a high-performance system.”

The offices on the third level were designed to benefit from natural daylight. Glazing was placed at the upper portion of the corridor walls to allow for natural light to penetrate through interior spaces. Mojdehi says a south-facing curtainwall by the main entry maximizes natural light penetration into the commons.

“The heat gain was mitigated through large horizontal fins extending over the glazing on the west façade,” Diaz says. “Similarly, the roof protrudes out and over the south curtainwall to protect it from the harsh Texas summer sun, while allowing in the low angles of the sunlight during fall and winter seasons.”

Exterior windows and storefront systems are double-pane insulated glazing units that are separated by a 1/2-inch air gap, which provides high insulating value compared to regular glass. This high-performance glazing system admits more light and less heat, allowing daylighting without having a negative impact on the cooling load in the summer. Rascoe explains large, glazed areas are located only at the lobby, and have a combination of insulated, tinted and high-efficiency glass, with areas of spandrel glass (non-transparent and insulated assemblies of glass that match the transparent units), and deeper vertical and horizontal mullions to shade adjacent glass areas.

Dempsey states the center has been well received by the students and it has fulfilled its intent to provide superb service to the university’s students.