When you think of “green” buildings, usually you get the impression that the building is good for the environment and the wildlife therein. Ironically, some of the 40,000 LEED certified buildings are also killing an alarming number of birds. Some major US cities have proposed legislation to remedy this situation and now the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) may incorporate a new credit into the LEED certification program designed to provide standards for green building construction. The introduction of this new LEED credit can be attributed to the success of an American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Bird-Safe Glass Foundation campaign to lower the number of bird fatalities by designing buildings to be more bird friendly. However, this credit is only being tested as a Pilot Credit to ensure its effectiveness before it becomes part of the permanent LEED guidelines.
Between 300 million and 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with both commercial and residential buildings. Birds don’t know the difference between a reflection and reality and although a bird may fly away after crashing into a window, it could die elsewhere as a result of the impact. Even though songbirds are most at risk from these kinds of accidents, about 300 species have been counted as collision victims, including birds of prey. American Bird Conservancy recommends incorporating bird-friendly design elements into new commercial buildings and homes as well as retrofitting existing buildings with solutions such as applying tape, film, paint, or decals to the exterior in order to create visual barriers; installing netting in front of glass or using exterior shutters; and changing interior/exterior lighting regimens.
The ABC mostly faults glass and lighting designs for the majority of bird collisions. The reflection and transparency properties of glass are the problems when it comes to buildings with glass facades while the Beacon Effect and Urban Glow are common problems that a building’s lighting systems can create. For detailed measures on reducing a buildings collision threat to birds, see LEED Pilot Credit 55: Bird Collision Deterrence.