Bird-Friendly Building Certification


Photo from New York City Audubon

Buildings are a leading cause for bird-fatalities in the United States every year. Few green buildings exist where bird-safety is included. Architects and designers just don’t understand the connection between birds and the architecture. They don’t see glass. Viviana Ruiz-Gutierrez has a big idea. She wants to create the first-ever nationally recognized Bird-Friendly Building Certification. Bird-Certified Architecture
LEED, a popular green building standard, awards only one point for bird-safe design, but it’s not a requirement. Other industries have already gone to the birds, for example, you can easily find bird-friendly coffee. In 2007, the New York City Audubon Society published guidelines to bird-safe buildings, but the techniques are still often absent from most green projects. Places such as Chicago and Toronto have bird-safe guidelines, yet there’s not a nationally recognized certification for ornithological design-excellence. If Ruiz-Gutierrez has her way, that’ll all change.

Ruiz-Gutierrez is bird crazy. She’s spent her share of time in the field researching and monitoring birds. Her research focuses on the effects of agricultural land uses on forest bird populations, as well as testing monitoring techniques to determine how land use patterns around protected areas influences their capability to maintain current levels of biodiversity. Her research has shown her that with less natural areas, birds are spending their time in urban environments. Impact of urbanization on bird populations is evident from mortalities in cities. At least 100,000,000 birds are killed every year across North America by collisions with buildings. Even more are injured.

Architects Perspective on Bird-Friendly Design
Many architects first respond to the idea of bird-friendly design with laughter. Tim Spence, a Principal at BBH Design in Raleigh, NC and a LEED-AP, has a unique perspective about bird protection and healthcare facilities. He says awareness is the single most important way to get more buildings to be bird-friendly. He doesn’t think many architects understand how buildings fit into the larger picture of the ecology. In fact, when a green consultant first approached him about the subject, he thought it was silly. Then as the consultant provided more in-depth information, he connected the dots of creating a symbiotic relationship with the natural world and its benefit to the healing for patients in hospitals. He sees it as a way to give back to the community – not just the human community but the animal community.

Moreover, in an effort to get his office LEED rated, a big beautiful floor to ceiling north-facing window was installed to increase interior daylight. During the same time as he was becoming more educated about bird-protection, the office experienced several bird collisions against the window. Spence says that he stopped laughing at the idea after the third misfortune fowl met their demise against the fenestration.

Bird Protection and Energy Efficiency
Many construction managers and clients will not always worry about how a project will affect flying creatures. Green building is more known for saving energy than saving fowl. The smart green designer will go the route of energy efficiency to incorporate guidelines for birds. Correctly sizing windows will decrease the amount of thermal gain during summer and reduce thermal loss during winter. Size matters too, smaller windows reduce the chance of impact. Fritted and colored glass can also cut down on impacts while improve performance. Overhangs and solar shading are also techniques to enhance climatic and ecological connectivity.


Photo By Philippe Ruault
BFB Certified
Ruiz-Gutierrez thinks the current and future impact of urbanization on bird populations will get more attention if a national standard is available to celebrate good design. She wants to connect monitoring of birds in urban environments with a certification to showcase real-world bird-friendly design practices. Projects could be based on migratory routes and/or migratory patterns of species through a region. Cities could coordinate dark sky initiatives with the certification so the focus wouldn’t always be on individual buildings. Most places have an existing group of bird-watchers and research institutions to assist with the implementation of ideas. In the end, Ruiz-Gutierrez sees the certification as progress toward architecture and nature co-existing.

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