To say the Doris M Reed Elementary School project in Las Vegas was on a fast track, is a bit of an understatement. Despite what was obviously a speedy construction schedule, the finished structure features a strong sense of style.

Main image: The Doris M Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas features metal wall panels in the signature blue colour of the school’s Roadrunner team-sports mascot.
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Designed by architects from Gensler’s Las Vegas office, the facade incorporates a standard palette of public-school materials: Concrete masonry units and metal wall panels. But the end result is anything but generic, thanks to the dynamic dimensionality created through the use of bump-outs, overhangs and layered masonry courses. Then there’s the prominence of a particularly vibrant blue hue – the signature colour of the school’s Roadrunner team-sports mascot. In whole, the building makes quite an eye-catching statement in its near-desert setting.

Metal roof and wall panel systems offer design versatility limited only by imagination.

To achieve a balance between design simplicity and versatility, architects are finding new ways to incorporate metal roof and wall panel systems.

Below we look at five new ways to make metal cladding work:

For personality and visual punch, architects often choose metal products in a specific colour. But this trend can be taken to the next level by selecting panels from the same colour family (light, medium and dark blue, for example), and displaying them in a random or structured pattern to create a mosaic or ombre effect. Where multiple hues are available within the same colour family, it can be used to create this monochromatic effect, delivering a real impact.

Mixing flush panels in burgundy, colonial red and terracotta creates a colourful accent atop the AISD Performing Arts Centre in Austin, Texas.
Photo by Tom Coplen

When beautiful stone, brick or wood is used on the exterior – especially to accent a specific wall, column, archway or entrance—metal panels can be used to highlight these materials. This layered design approach helps to create visual interest and can bring old and new together, complementing a building’s history while adding some contemporary style.

“Rennen & Beecher Flats in Cincinnati is a great example,” says Rob Heselbarth, director of communications at PAC-CLAD | Petersen Aluminium. “It’s an older-style building in a historic neighbourhood, but the architect was able to add metal as an accent. It doesn’t overpower the historic look of the building. Little pops of metal can modernise an older building. This is a great way to work with metal and see what it can do.”

Wrapping the window bays and corners in metal adds a contemporary feel to the Rennen & Beecher Flats, a new mixed-use project in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood of Cincinnati.
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To create appeal and break up long expanses, architects are opting to use roof and wall panel systems on exterior walls or combining different wall panels. Instead of the same panel running the entire length of a wall, combining different profiles can add contrast while staying true to the design. It also helps to provide visual interest without looking too busy or overwhelming.

The Kimbrough Animal Hospital, which is located in Longview, Texas, is clad in flush and ribbed panels, along with a metal roof. The barn-inspired exterior uses a mix of panels and colours to provide a durable, welcoming facility.
Photo credit: Tom Coplen

The use of wood as an exterior accent goes a long way towards adding interest and texture. Metal with a realistic woodgrain finish – from bamboo to dark oak – combines the low maintenance and durability of metal roof and wall panels with the warm look of wood. Especially from a distance, it’s difficult to distinguish real wood from metal panels with a woodgrain finish.

In Ponte Vedra, Baptist HealthPlace at Nocatee takes advantage of durable metal panels with a woodgrain finish to add visual interest to the main entrance, soffits and accents between windows.
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The ability to create almost limitless perforation patterns, hole sizes and densities opens up many new applications for metal cladding. It can serve a decorative purpose, provide ventilation, deliver privacy or offer shading.

The award-winning Ballet Memphis, which was recognised with an AIA National Education Facility Design Award, used perforated corrugated copper to create a decorative sidewalk screen-art wall. It wraps around the building, offering the right combination of shading, privacy and visibility during the day while allowing the building’s light to shine towards the street at night.

“There’s so much you can do with metal because of these different elements,” explains Heselbarth. “As more architects include it in their projects, we’re seeing this basic building material used in creative ways – whether it’s adding a woodgrain finish or perforation. Versatility is limited only by your imagination.”

A perforated natural copper screen creates a dynamic facade for Ballet Memphis, located within the Overton Square entertainment district in Memphis, Tennessee.
Photo credit: archimania

For more information about these projects and the products used, visit

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