Designing for Bird Safety

Bird Safety

Clients love glass buildings and high skyscrapers because glass provides more natural light and prestige. Architects have a growing affinity for glass too. However, this building with glass creates problems with bird mortality. US Fish and Wildlife has estimated 750 million birds perish annually from flying into glass. (1) Other statistics dispute that staggering number but no one disputes that glass buildings are the cause of a large number of dead birds every year.

Other human activities also create serious safety hazards for birds.   Urban lights, for example can disorient birds, which rely on star light for navigation and on certain light frequencies for their internal compass. Intense light sources can lure them off course and burn up their energy. Their migration delay can impact breeding and further depress bird populations.(3)  Even, the slow moving wind power has attributed to birds’ death (2)

Architect Guy Maxwell became a passionate advocate for the protection of birds after his glass cube Hayden Planetarium became a deadly invisible barrier to birds. It has became his mission to protect our feathered species.

Working with him is a circle of anti-collision advocates including the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon Society, and the Bird Safe Glass Foundation that started in 2011. Together, they are raising awareness of bird safety among architects, have performed bird-safe research, and pushed for bird-safe building regulations.

Bird Safety 2

Disoriented by the bright light, scores of birds heading south for the winter swirl in confusion-wasting precious energy – around New York City’s Tribute in Light to victims of the September 2001 terrorist attack. Today, volunteers monitor the beams so they can be shut off when large numbers of birds get too close

They were successful partnering with the US Green Building Council to launch a LEED pilot credit #55 for incorporating “bird collision deterrence” into new buildings. (3) The goal is to make buildings visible to birds through technologies such as fritted glass, exterior treatments like louvers, screens, fractured metal screens and decreased night lighting levels. Other successes includes legislation in San Francisco and Oakland, and voluntary ordinances that have been passed in New York, Minnesota and Toronto.

New York City chapter of the Audubon Society has created an online portal called D-Bird where people can report building-related bird moralities. (4)

With this advocacy the hope is that awareness will result in more bird safety legislation, and greater bird friendly design by architects.

JL Architects are advocates for sustainability, green building and care for the environment. We are Green Globe & LEED professionals, and are conscious of our impact on the environment. Contact us at JL Architects to learn how we can be your partner in caring for the environment.





(3) Wildlife Magazines, October-November Issue 2019



-Myrna Villaneuva, Architectural Designer


**Photo Credit: Alan Li