As birders, the news of another bird lying lifeless on a busy downtown sidewalk is unfortunately nothing new. With city centers consistently getting bigger and flashier, the risk to our feathered friends today is at an all-time high.
The good news is, many organizations have been formed to address the situation and existing ones (such as ours) are continuing to raise awareness of the deadly nature of large commercial buildings. This issue has now been brought to the forefront and has been covered by major publications all across Canada and the United States, successfully bringing real change to the way we design our buildings.
As bird populations in many areas continue to decline, as human beings, we must be held accountable where possible for our role in said declines. As such, here are three ways many architects are designing new buildings and how many existing buildings are being retrofitted to support the effort of saving birds.
This is the big one and albeit, the most difficult. As you walk through any downtown core across North America you are met with tall skylines full of commercial buildings. Inside they house the very nature of commerce that keeps our country alive economically. Outside is a different story.
While picturesque to some, these buildings are often filled with glass windows from top to bottom and are an immovable death trap to our birds. As we progress with data in hand, many designers are moving away from this design where possible, including more brick and stone in their designs to alleviate the risk to some of our birds.
Honestly speaking, we are likely never going to get away from having any windows on these large structures. As humans, we long for the outdoors and for many of us during the week, the peaceful view outside of our workspaces are sometimes all we get until the weekend hits. Additionally, windows provide structures with natural light, cutting down hydro use and also making the environment a more natural one. While we have many options for our home windows, it is the commercial sector that is truly in need of reform.
In light of this, architects have begun to design inclusive artwork to be displayed over windows adding to the aesthetic nature of the building all while keeping birds safe. For an example, see the newly-redesigned Newton Rec Centre in Surrey, BC. Their designers set out to create a beautiful design that would not affect our birds.
Some of the earliest studies surrounding window strikes and birds were surrounded by the light pollution emitted from buildings in busy downtowns. While the need to alert aircraft is certainly necessary, these lights often act as a blinding beacon to birds in flight, particularly this time of year when many are migrating.
Many have instituted changes to lessen the effects of commercial lighting and already we have seen much progress in this particular sector.