Bird-Friendly Glass Designed With Help From Spiders

Photos from Arnold Glas

There's a terrible feeling you get when a bird smacks into a window, at the office or at your home. "What was that?!" You look outside, and see a dead or injured bird on the ground. Birds can't see glass, and windows on buildings are a major cause of avian fatalities around the world. But it doesn't have to be that way. There's such a thing as bird friendly glass, believe it or not. A German company called Arnold Glas makes Ornilux, and recently collected an international design award for its spider-web inspired product. Estimates are that more than 100 million birds die every year in the United States from collisions with windows. The number is about 250,000 a day in Europe, according to Arnold Glas. A special ultraviolet reflective coating makes the Ornilux glass visible to birds, but doesn't obstruct the view for us humans.

The latest version of the glass, called Ornilux Mikado, received the "red dot" award this year from the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany. Judges noted that the glass uses the same techniques that spiders use to keep birds from flying through and destroying their webs.

"The highly effective coating which, when looked at against a backlight, seems like a randomly unfolding layer of the game Mikado pick-up sticks, is barely visible to humans and integrates seamlessly into architecture ..."

Credit: Orin Zebest

The glass was developed in conjuction with the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, which tested Ornilux on Central European garden birds and found they recognize it better than ordinary glass. The coating reduces bird strikes by an estimated 75 percent, is more effective than stickers and also helps insulate a building, Arnold Glas says.

The glass is making its way to the states. The Detroit Audubon Society is one of the latest organizations to highlight the product.

The first installation of Ornilux was in the spring of 2006, during the modernization of the 100-year-old enclosed swimming pool in the German city of Plauen. Courtesy Arnold Glas
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