Case Study

Raleigh-Durham Airport (RDU) | North Carolina, USA

Airports act as a gateway to the communities they serve, offering a first and last impression to travelers. As U.S. air travel continues to increase, airport authorities face a dilemma. A well-designed airport terminal needs to balance efficiency and enhanced security requirements of a post 9/11 era with growing traveler expectations, such as bright and modern terminals with access to all the amenities.

Such expectations didn’t exist in 1981 when Terminal 1 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport was built. Nicknamed the ‘Blue Box’, the original rectangular building was constructed using blue corrugated metal that made it dark and uninviting. Designed before TSA Protocols were in place and the concepts of safety and control of passenger flow were developed, the interior was confusing. There was a haphazard sequence of arriving, ticketing, TSA screening and departure, causing stress and poor passenger experience.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority recognized that was no longer acceptable when it employed Clark Nexsen Architects to refurbish the aging building.

In a $68 million transformation, Clark Nexsen created a stunning new terminal, redesigning everything from the curbside to the interior space. On landside arrival, a Kalwall® canopy system provides shelter and links access points, while a Kalwall facade is utilized for the main building. The unique ability of Kalwall translucent sandwich panels to diffuse natural daylight into the interior means the new TSA screening facility maintains privacy for the sensitive areas while bathing the interior with natural, glare-free light.

Kalwall’s inherent strength makes it ideal for such secure locations. With heavy-duty, impact-resistance properties and shatter-proof nature, it denies access through facades or skylights. It can be configured to exceed Large Missile D hurricane compliance for wind-borne debris protection, making it suitable for facilities needing enhanced protection or serving critical national defense functions. Kalwall can even be manufactured for blast resistance and compliance with DoD, GSA anti-terrorism, ATFP and UFC military guidelines.

In addition to its ruggedness, Kalwall eliminates shadows, glare and the stark contrasts of light and shade. Even on overcast days, the interior is bathed with natural daylight, which means less artificial lighting and, because Kalwall is highly insulating, energy costs are reduced. Although translucent, it offers the big advantage of privacy with elevations which appear crisp and simple. When illuminated at night, the building emits an inviting and welcoming glow.

With its LEED certification, this new terminal demonstrates the Authority’s desire to reduce carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

Airport Authority President and CEO Michael Landguth comments, “The Terminal 1 project demonstrates the Airport Authority’s commitment to sustainable business practices and energy efficiency. From the beginning, our team set its sights on achieving LEED certi-fication. This designation illustrates the team’s hard work and that of our architects and construction firms.”

Download Case Study


Panel: 2.75” | 70mm
Grid core: Vertikal™
Exterior FRP: white
Interior FRP: white
System finish: 204R1 clear anodized
U-Value: 0.23 | 1.25 Wm2K
Solar Heat Gain Coefficient: 0.23
Visible Light Transmission: 15%


South Atlantic Region Design Awards:
Merit Award for New Construction/Substantial Renovation (2016)

AIA North Carolina Merit Award (2016)

Engineering News-Record:
Southeast Best Airport/Transit Project (2014)

U.S. Green Building Council:
LEED Certification

Take advantage of our complimentary daylight modeling services to understand how a Kalwall will impact your design.

Learn More

Don’t stay in the dark!

    Don’t stay
    in the dark!

    Get educational, insightful and inspirational content from the industry leader in daylight. Sign up for our enewsletter before you go.

    Thank You!

    Welcome to our daylighting community.

    Holler Box