Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, is the largest outpatient ambulatory care center in the Department of Defense. The $380-million phased project brought a LEED Gold facility that spans 670,000 square feet to Lackland Air Force Base. As part of the Wilford Hall replacement, the design team at HDR Inc. worked to design a building that responded to the site, including the environmental impacts of solar and wind. They wanted materials that reflected both rural central Texas and the hi-tech feel of the armed forces. Dri-Design Panels did this and lent sustainable characteristics with the panels’ natural style and purpose.


“The building is influenced by different perspectives, such as a high volumes of people coming to the facility,” says James Henry, design director for HDR’s Health Practice. “As the largest free-standing ambulatory facility in the DoD’s portfolio, there is no model to work from. So we looked at other areas, such as retail and aviation, where there is a lot of people movement. At the same time we had to consider that all military bases have standards. We had to create a new medical architectural standard for the district while adhering to existing base standards.”


The project used 150,000 square feet of 1.5-mm zinc and 0.080-inch aluminum Dri-Design Panels. The zinc is VMZINC Quartz, a natural zinc treated to mimic a natural patina. The aluminum panels were painted in Bone White, Dark Bronze and Gauntlet Gray colors. Metal panels are used on the exterior as the cladding material and brise soleils. For the interior, the metal panels were added to seamlessly transition inside and outside spaces in the chapel, lobby, elevator entrance and entryway vestibules.


Painted aluminum was selected for the interior, for not only it’s aesthetic appeal but also so the panels can be easily wiped clean. Zinc added to the design team’s goal of using natural materials, and Dri-Design Panels offered unique characteristics. “We chose Dri-Design because it’s one solid plate, which meant not using any additional energy to make it,” Henry says. “Other composite panels have an additional core to get the stiffness. So using Dri-Design meant we were true to the material choice because there wasn’t anything added to it.”


Dri-Design panels are unlike others because they are a true single skin metal panel system, not laminated or a composite. Sealants, gaskets, caulk and tape are not needed for any Dri-Design installation. The panels, therefore, will not streak. Dri-Design panels are 100 percent recyclable, available in any painted color, and are sized and detailed to meet the specific requirements of each project.


Rain King Inc., Victoria, Texas, installed the panels. This was the first time Rain King had worked with Dri-Design panels, and Jared Cain, project manager for Rain King, found the experience to be positive. “The main challenge was measuring the walls because of the large amount of windows and openings,” he notes. “Once the panels were fabricated, they installed easily.”


This new space replaces an existing building opened in 1957. The center includes four wings, connected by an airport-style concourse, and houses more than 25 outpatient clinics and clinic services. There are 240,000 beneficiaries in and around the San Antonio area who have access to the facility’s services, and it is expected 55,000 patients will be cared for at the center annually.


“The size and span of this structure is unlike anything seen in the armed forces healthcare system, and the zinc and aluminum panels help properly scale the structure while speaking to the natural elements of the design,” says Brad Zeeff, president of Dri-Design. “What this facility will do for the area service men and women is astounding, and we are honored to be a featured product that welcomes service men and women and their families on their journey to health.”