Designing a bird-friendly downtown may seem like a feather-brained idea with all the buildings that have such prominent glass faces and the high density of people always coming and going. But, protecting the environment with some bird-friendly design practices is actually something The City considers in its work and it's not as difficult as you might think.
The City of Calgary's bird friendly design guidelines were assembled based on local data from the Calgary Bird Branding Society and research collected from global sources on bird mortality in man-made environments.This research, from the US Fish and Wildlife service, shows the North American bird population to be between 10 to 20 billion birds of which building strikes account for approximately 97 million deaths per year. An increase in birds colliding with buildings is most apparent during spring and fall migration. Bird mortality from a window strike is very high with an estimate of 50 to 90 percent of birds dying after a strike, usually from internal hemorrhaging. Canada is home to more than 600 species with 71 of those on the North American continent listed as threatened or endangered.
Birds cannot see clear or reflective glass which can cause collisions in a downtown urban environment when they attempt to fly towards what they think is sky but are in fact just the windows. Research shows that the threat from reflective glass persists at any time of day, season of the year or weather condition. At night, birds can also become disoriented and get trapped in artificially lit and densely-built downtown areas. While they try to fly to safety, birds may then fly into glass through which they see interior landscaping. So, as you can see a bird can easily fall prey to the perils of city life especially in a place like Calgary with so many birds living long our vibrant river systems.
That's why bird-friendly design guidelines are essential. Here are the key things The City tries to consider in its design efforts to protect birds and save on energy costs. They are:
- To clearly distinguish buildings with visual markers.
- Come up with innovative aesthetic approaches to building façades
- Stimulate research and development within the glass industry. Create a need for glass production which is bird-friendly
2. Add visual noise with films or decals
- Develop a cost-effective, bird-friendly design solution through application of exterior or interior window films. As an added bonus, the films can also help control the interior building climate by reducing solar heat gain.
3. Interrupt reflective glass with panels, sunshades or louvres
- Opaque building elements, such as panels or a curtain wall, reduce capital costs in the attempts to create a more bird-friendly building.
- Better energy performance – shading devises can help control interior building climate.
- Contributes to good design and aesthetics, improves the overall look of the building while increasing bird-friendly design.
4. Treat the glass of the lower four storeys to make it visible to birds
- Aesthetically appealing graphic patterns are applied to the lower level windows
- Glare control
- Increase the visibility of retail businesses by applying graphic patterns on windows of the street level windows
5. Clearly define building courtyards, walkways and Plus 15's
- Make a defined and legible site plan and building layout to make navigation simpler for both pedestrians and birds.
6. Use awnings to cover ground level glass
- Awnings would serve as shading devices for store fronts as well as to control glare and reduce solar heat gain
- Better pedestrian and human scale orientation on street level
7. Use Internal screens, curtains or blinds to make clear glass more opaque
- Reduce solar heat gain in buildings during the day
- Reduce light pollution (including urban sky glow and glare) from buildings at night
- Addresses privacy issues, especially for residential buildings
8. Angle glass downward to reduce reflections of sky and surrounding landscaping
- Daytime effectiveness – angled glass can substantially reduce building cooling loads, while reducing internal reflections for better glare control
- Contribute to the overall aesthetic of the building façade making for unique visual variations
9. Locate building landscaping away from any untreated building glazing
- Simple and cost-effective, locates bird attractive habitat away from glass
- Reduced reflection of existing landscape
- Contributes to maximizing vegetated open space on a new site. For a new site, the smaller the building footprint, the greater the opportunity to spread landscaping on the site
- With landscaping kept 1 metre from the building, summertime shading in increased and reduces cooling loads.
10. Locate interior landscaping away from windows
- When practical, an easy and quick solution to reduce bird strike collisions
11. Select appropriate site and area lighting fixtures
12. Consider migratory seasons when placing festival and advertising lights
13. Extinguish or manage interior lights
14. Use task lighting or draw office blinds
15. Use timers and motion sensors to limit unnecessary lighting
16. Schedule building cleaning during the day
So, the next time you are wandering the downtown core, imagine a bird’s eye view of the place. Imagine the confusion, the light, the noise and do your part. Turn off lights, draw your blinds if you have them and encourage your building to make a few small but significant changes to improve not only the environment at large but our feathered citizens’ environment as well.