Sunday, July 05, 2009

Bird-friendly Architecture?

One of the problems with "green" architecture, as it is currently construed, is that it favors using a lot of glass. Now, glass has its advantages, as natural lighting is wonderful, and letting more sunlight inside can help a room feel warmer in the winter. Some glass buildings are indeed attractive. The trouble is that birds cannot perceive glass, so that a glass wall will either seem clear or will reflect back the building's surroundings. Thus walls constructed out of glass can become death traps for birds, especially during migration when many birds are tired and disoriented anyway.

Via bootstrap analysis, I learned that there is talk now of encouraging bird friendly certification to work alongside the current LEED standard.

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.
An enforceable and evidence-based bird-friendly standard could be a major benefit to birds. As things stand now, the current LEED standards are inadequate for addressing a building's environmental impact. One of the many problems is the lack of bird-safe design. Creating a bird-friendly standard might be a step towards making "green" buildings more green.