Courtesy 'The Architects' Journal'
Courtesy 'The Architects' Journal'

Bird thinks glass is sky, bird flies into glass, bird dies. This is the pattern that more and more policymakers around the world are trying to break. Chicago, Toronto, and New York have proposed voluntary bird-safe building guidelines, and San Francisco enacted an ordinance called Standards for Bird-Safe Buildings, as ARCHITECT reported earlier this year.

Architects, too, are trying for solutions. Guy Maxwell, AIA, principal at Ennead Architects, has found that Ennead’s chicken-wire windows deter birds—though he knows not all clients will want chicken wire in their windows. An earlier solution was attaching stickers to glazing, though tests have shown that those don’t work.

And manufacturers are now getting into the game, as it's estimated that 1 billion birds die each year from building collisions. German manufacturer Arnold Glas has released a new glazing called Ornilux Mikado that is intended to be bird-friendly. The first application of the glass is for a new lighthouse in Lindisfarne, UK. As Euan Millar, director of Icosis, the lighthouse’s architects told The Architect’s Journal:

With so much glass in the tower we were concerned with birds striking the glazing in particular. The Ornilux product should help to protect the birds and ensure the native wildlife is unaffected by the new visitor facility.

The glass is inspired by orb-weaver spiderwebs, which reflect UV light to prevent birds from flying into the webs. Arnold coated a similar mesh of lines onto the glass that reflect UV rays and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology found that 82 out of 108 birds flew toward the plain glass and not the webbed glass.

Ennead’s Maxwell is going to try out the Ornilux glass, among other measures, at a new science building at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The Vassar College Integrated Science Center building is going up next to a stream in a woods, which is bound to attract birds. Maxwell has designed the building with Ornilux, fritted glass, and outside of one window, a roll of vertical venetian blinds to interrupt reflections of the woods on the glass.

LEED now gives credit for making buildings more visible to birds, and an act is is committee to require the U.S. General Services Administration to incorporate bird-friendly design. Now, all we need are proven solutions, and more options like Ornilux.