Dunbar Highschool

Making history

65+ years of daylighting

Our Founder

Who Was Robert R. Keller, Sr.?

Born in 1913, Robert was amazed by the still-infant technology of airplanes—that something as impossible as man taking flight could be made possible by combining the right materials. So, at a young age, he began to wonder what else was possible with the right materials.

He experimented with surfboard design—another way to help man do the impossible—and then snowboards. He discovered the power of combining dissimilar materials to create better composites. He suffered a few explosions in the basement, but a lifelong inventor was born.

After graduation from Dartmouth College and the Tuck School of Business, Robert got a true start in a composites career at the Hermsdorf Manufacturing Company, where he eventually became general manager. By 1941, he had converted this store fixture firm into a defense plant that manufactured molded plywood and wood composites for airplanes, mine sweepers and signal core masts. Toward the end of WWII, he started his first company, Keller Products, which designed, engineered and manufactured composite architectural materials for the aircraft, building and furniture industries. Then, he developed the insulated, light-transmitting panel, named Kalwall, which became familiar to architects worldwide. Robert adapted the Kalwall technology to develop active and passive solar collectors to counter the energy shortage of the early 1970s. His ingenuity led to over 30 patents and recognition for his pioneering work in adhesives, structural plastics, composites and solar energy devices. In 1999, Robert was awarded the Passive Pioneer Solar Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and was made a Fellow of ASES the following year.

A Timeline of Inspiring Kalwall Projects

US Pavilion, 1958 World's Fair

Edward Durrell Stone, Architect


St. Louis Abbey

Gyo Obata, Architect

Tent of Tomorrow (New York State Pavilion), 1964 World's Fair

Philip Johnson, Architect

NASA Vertical Assembly Building

Max Urbahn Associates, Architect

House VI

Peter Eisenman, Architect

LACMA Pavilion for Japanese Art

Bruce Goff & Bart Prince, Architects

PAT Center

Richard Rogers, Architect

Apple Campus HQ

Sobrato, Developer

Korean Presbyterian Church of New York

Greg Lynn, Architect

New York Hall of Science

Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects)

Yale Sculpture Building

KieranTimberlake Associates, Architect

Wolfe Center for the Arts

Snohetta, Architect

Dunbar High School (Highest-Rated Platinum LEED School)

Perkins Eastman + Moody Nolan, Architect

Amager Resource Center, CopenHill

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Architect

Heathrow Airport Terminal 4

American Airlines O’Hare Hangar 2

Ghafari Associates, Architect

Kalwall’s many “firsts” in the composites industry

First to:

  • Manufacture an aluminum & FRP sandwich panel
  • Marry aluminum box-beams with composite panels for monumental daylighting spans
  • Develop super-effective UV-resistant coating system
  • Perfect a full-thickness, colorfast resin system
  • Invent a curved panel
  • Develop the only true thermally broken composite grid core
  • Incorporate a glass erosion barrier
  • Produce low-flame and smoke panels that weather well
  • Develop a Class-A skyroof® system
  • Develop a blast-resistant panel
  • Engineer daylighting systems to meet windborne debris codes
  • Develop an FM Class 1 panel
  • Incorporate aerogel insulation
  • Offer free daylight modeling reports

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