Central Florida has huge tourist draws like Walt Disney World Resort, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and many famous beaches. So the Orlando International Airport MCO — one of the world’s ten busiest airports by passenger volume — is debuting a new terminal to keep up with demand. It’s ginormous, full of natural light and has lots of sustainability features.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
Exterior of the new Terminal C in Orlando, Florida

Designed by Fentress Architects, Terminal C will serve up to 12 million airline passengers each year and add 15 new gates when it opens on September 19. The new terminal will help MCO increase its total capacity by up to 60 million passengers annually.

Related: Newest additions to this airport made completely out of wood

A tinted main skylight

A big, open area called The Boulevard will align major airport elements such as ticketing, concessions, security and baggage claim. The grand skylight will let in plenty of natural sunlight. Meanwhile, the tinted glass panels of the main skylight imitate the light that comes through Orlando’s well-known orange groves.

Faux "forever trees" throughout the new terminal

The Boulevard will also connect the new terminal’s large gathering spaces, Palm Court and Town Square, with MCO’s train station. Palm Court features restaurants, shopping and plenty of space to relax in a garden-like atmosphere. Additionally, interactive displays are designed to entertain and inform travelers. Town Square, the light-filled arrivals hall, is built to be friendlier and more welcoming than your grim, old-school baggage claims areas.

A bright white walkway

But Terminal C isn’t just pretty. “It was critical from the start that however we expanded our footprint we did so in an environmentally-sound way,” said Davin Ruohomaki, senior director of construction and engineering for the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “Our construction efforts to the south have included targeted steps to align with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED v4 certification requirements.”

Updated area for waiting in the airport

The South Terminal Complex, which includes the new terminal and the train station, is one of the first airport campuses in the world to aspire to this coveted certification. Builders targeted seven eco-areas: resiliency, renewables, energy efficiency, water efficiency, emissions, materials, indoor air quality, and environmental, social, and governance. By choosing more efficient equipment, they’re aiming for a 35% reduction in potable water use and a 25% drop in energy costs. The airport will then experiment with supplying some of its own renewable energy, starting with a floating solar array near one of its parking garages.

More views of the forever trees and tinted windows

Even with the skylights, visitors may wonder how Palm Court’s eponymous trees grow so well inside an airport. Forty-two faux “Forever Trees” repurpose real trees, including bark created from preserved materials. These intriguing trees include bald cypress, and date, royal, sabal and Washingtonian palms.

“We felt this was a great opportunity to create a sense of place for the arrival of visitors from around the world,” said senior program director Bill Brooks of HNTB Construction, the architect on record for Terminal C. “The landscaping offers glimpses of the lush, colorful landscapes that they associate with Florida.” Overall, the new terminal promises to be an attractive and welcoming introduction to the Sunshine State.

+ Fentress Architects

Via Orlando Airports

Images via Matthew Good and Jeffrey S. Leimbach