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How to Design Buildings to Prevent Bird Crashes – Bloomberg

Glass-encased towers are still death traps for birds. But designers know how to stop the crashes.

Illustrator: Cathryn Virginia
Illustrator: Cathryn Virginia

By Alexandra Lange

The narrow stretch that separates Quay Tower from a thatch of bamboo and oaks in Brooklyn Bridge Park doesn’t look like much, especially in winter. Unless you’re a bird.

To a bird, the copper-colored building’s glass is a mirror, reflecting the thick grove of trees and suggesting that the wilderness continues across the road. To a bird, that can be a deadly mistake.

“You see that reflection? To a bird that looks like a tree, that is a tree, and they will go right for the tree,” says Catherine Quayle, social media director at the Wild Bird Fund.

The surprising uptake of birding as a pandemic hobby, along with social media and data collection tools like eBird and dBird, has created new visibility for bird collisions with glass, which kill as many as 1 billion birds in the U.S. per year. At the same time, a new generation of urban parks has given birds more places to roost in highly populated areas. But something else has followed these parks as well: real estate capital. The vogue for urban parks creates more economic impetus to build shiny buildings with big windows opposite those urban wetlands, glades and groves.

Architects have known how to prevent their buildings from becoming bird killers for more than a decade: Toronto was the first North American municipality to implement bird safety building guidelines back in 2010. New York City implemented some laws of its own in 2021. Patterned glass, exterior screens and turning the lights off at night can all significantly reduce bird deaths. But those standards clash with the big glass and big views that clients associate with big money.

“Every project we work on, guess what? There’s a giant plate of glass, and the client says, we want some landscape here,” says Kate Orff, the MacArthur-prize-winning founder of landscape architecture and urban design studio SCAPE. Over the past decade, Orff says, “Manhattan has been remade as a giant bird killer.”

Source: Javits Center
Source: Javits Center
From far away, the glass-enclosed Javits Center looks reflective (top). Up close, it's possible to see the fritting added to the glass, which has reduced bird collisions by 90%. Source: Javits Center
From far away, the glass-enclosed Javits Center looks reflective (top). Up close, it’s possible to see the fritting added to the glass, which has reduced bird collisions by 90%.
Source: Javits Center

Fall migration along the Atlantic Flyway begins in mid-August and peaks from mid-September to mid-October. That peak was tragically reflected in viral photos and video on Sept. 14 by Treehugger editorial director Melissa Breyer, who documented 226 dead birds at the World Trade Center — most of those from two towers, 3 WTC and 4 WTC — as one of 40 volunteers with NYC Audubon’s collision monitoring project. The luxury condo building Circa Central Park, distinguished by its sweep of inward-curving glass and located directly opposite the park’s northwest corner, is a known deathtrap, as is the shopping center Brookfield Place, across the West Side Highway from the WTC.

Read on >>>> Source: How to Design Buildings to Prevent Bird Crashes – Bloomberg

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