Aloft/Element Hotel

The capital of Texas has undergone a surge of popularity in part to its eclectic music, culture and growing downtown. The hospitality sector of Austin also is expanding, notably with the Aloft Austin Downtown and Element Austin Downtown, two distinct hotels in one building. The structure was designed to fit the Austin skyline, on one of the busiest downtown streets, with a tasteful and timeless quality. That goal was met within budget parameters by selecting Dri-Design wall panels.

“Dri-Design panels have several advantages over other metal panel types which makes it an easy decision,” says Michael Strohmer, a principal with HKS Inc., the architectural firm. “The thickness of the aluminum ensures that the panels maintain a flat and uniform appearance.  The corner panels made from a single piece also give a preferred appearance, and the joint detail closes off the substrate underneath so there isn’t a concern about ultraviolet degradation of the waterproofing.”

Baker Triangle Prefab, Dallas, installed 42,346 square feet of 0.80-inch aluminum panels in Aluminum Mica and Weathered Zinc. The finishes were selected to create an ever-changing visual appearance as the sun’s reflection moves across the building throughout the day. Keith Giddens, president of Baker Triangle Prefab, says this is the first time his company has worked with Dri-Design panels, but the crew found them easy to install.

The team considered fiber cement and glass fiber reinforced concrete before turning to metal panels. The joint and connection details of the Dri-Design panels gave it a clear advantage.

“After considering different options, metal panels were selected because they were the best balance between aesthetics and cost. Being able to panelize the wall panels in a shop provided a consistent quality that gave us and the owner confidence,” Strohmer says.

The most challenging aspect of the project was the site size and bustling location. Strohmer says trying to fit all the spaces into such a small site required creative solutions. The 32-story hotel, operated by Starwood, has 414 guestrooms. Guests arrive in separate entrances and lobbies, but they share amenities, including a street-level terrace, fitness center, meeting space and restaurants. The second-floor roof terrace has an indoor/outdoor bar that is directly connected to the street through an open staircase.

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