Building Guidelines For Bird Safety - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

The American Bird Conservancy is working with cities throughout the U.S. to protect birds from building collisions.
The American Bird Conservancy is working with cities throughout the U.S. to protect birds from building collisions.

Building Guidelines For Bird Safety

Building Guidelines For Bird Safety - Facility Executive Magazine - Creating Intelligent Buildings

As part of a program to reduce the number of bird deaths resulting from building collisions, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has made available a new publication, “Bird-Friendly Building Designs”.

“As new buildings are constructed each day across the country, architects, building owners, developers, and city planners need the direction this publication provides on how to make buildings safer for birds. Scientific studies have estimated that up to one billion birds die from building collisions in the United States each year, but as new data continue to be gathered and analyzed, it is quite possible that even that staggering figure will be found to be low,” said Dr. Christine Sheppard, ABC’s Building Collisions Campaign Manager and author of the new guidelines.

The 58-page publication focuses on bird safety, addressing both the causes of collisions and the solutions—with an appendix on the biological science behind the issue. The designs build on earlier efforts targeting local communities such as New York City, Chicago, and Toronto.

The publication examines the mirror effect of windows, glass transparency, the “passage effect” caused by dark glass, and the effects of external and internal building lighting, all of which lead to bird collisions. The document also addresses building design, bird movements, and habitat and landscaping, which can help or exacerbate the collision problem.

The publication defines an ABC Bird-friendly Building Standard and also highlights legislative approaches to reducing collisions. In addition, it covers new construction ideas to improve building façades using different types of glass, nettings, screens, grilles, shutters, and exterior shades. Retrofitting of old buildings is also addressed, as are landscaping and lighting considerations that can be implemented in both new and old construction.

Elements of ABC’s Bird-Friendly Building Standard are:

  • At least 90% of exposed façade material from ground level to 40′ (the primary bird collision zone) has been demonstrated in controlled experiments to deter 70% or more of bird collisions
  • At least 60% of exposed façade material above the collisions zone meets the above standard
  • There are no transparent passageways or corners, or atria or courtyards that can trap birds
  • Outside lighting is appropriately shielded and directed to minimize attraction to nightmigrating songbirds
  • Interior lighting is turned off at night or designed to minimize light escaping through windows
  • Landscaping is designed to keep birds away from the building’s façade
  • Actual bird mortality is monitored and compensated for (e.g., in the form of habitat preserved or created elsewhere, mortality from other sources reduced, etc.)

ABC recently partnered with Golden Gate Audubon to help the city of San Francisco’s board of governors pass bird safe building standards, which were approved in October 2011 by Mayor Edwin Lee. At the national level, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL) has introduced legislation (HR 1643) that calls for each public building constructed, acquired, or altered by the General Services Administration (GSA) to incorporate, to the maximum extent possible, bird-safe building materials and design features. The legislation would require GSA to take similar actions on existing buildings, where practicable.

“Protecting and helping birds is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the economy and the future of our environment. Birds are invaluable as controllers of crop insect pests and as pollinators of plants and seed distributors. They also generate billions of dollars in economic revenues through the pastimes of bird feeding and birdwatching,” said Sheppard.


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  1. Window coating film is the most effective form of bird deterrent. You don’t have to sacrifice anything in terms aesthetics either because the window will look like any other window you might install because only birds can see the modifications. Plus window film is cheaper to get than new glass.

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