Ever seen a bird fly into a window? According to Noreen Weeden of Golden Gate Audubon, the majority of birds die from striking buildings. A billion birds die in collisions with glass each year in the United States. But how can a city reduce the number of bird glass collisions? Emeryville is one city in the Bay Area that has taken significant action to protect birds and work to eliminate any threats to birds, while also staying cost effective. Effective August 2020, Emeryville has approved Bird-Safe Building Standards. So when did this happen and how can the city protect the birds from building collisions?
On May 26, 2020, the Emeryville Planning Commission had approved the standards and handed it to the City Council. On July 7, 2020, Emeryville City Council and Mayor passed to approve the new building standards to keep birds from injury or death.
Birds can end up in an unfamiliar area or in a building collision due to artificial light. Artificial light at night draws birds off course, disorients them, and affects their migration. The bird safe building standards include reducing excess interior and exterior lighting. If there is less of this light pollution, it will reduce the number of birds colliding with a building. Some examples for this could be shielding exterior lights and pointing them downward onto the property, or lights on public art or architectural fixtures could use less wattage. Another way to meet the standards is by installing a certain glass. Fritting, the use of ceramic, can be used to lower the heat lost or gained from windows and reduce glare. Fritted glass applied in patterns will increase the visibility to the birds, so the glass won’t look transparent. This energy efficient glass can reduce glare, conditioner costs, and help lower the danger to birds, while also providing a distinctive exterior look to the building as well. Other options could be stained glass or opaque glass.
There are many other alternatives to meet these standards. For instance, instead of treating glass, bird netting or louvers could be installed. Bird safe measures benefit both the operators and building owners. A design that is bird safe reduces costs (air conditions, ventilation, heating). Berkeley is also including a dark skies ordinance, which focuses on the light fixtures of buildings, and they will target the direct light at a specific spot rather than having it all over. The benefit of this is to enjoy the dark night sky, but also provide the best light quality where it is needed.
New and remodeled buildings and glass structures can fulfill this bird safe building standard in a cost-effective way. Emeryville is taking the right step forward to ensure that buildings are now bird safe, and protecting wildlife.
For further development of what Emeryville has done: https://www.ci.emeryville.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/12152/Item-81-Bird-Safe-Building-Standards-09-26-19
For a Q&A about more specifics: https://goldengateaudubon.org/blog-posts/bird-safe-buildings-advance-in-berkeley-emeryville/