Designers have increasingly been advocating for large glass walls to create a modern, open office space. But unfortunately, this has had an unintended side effect… bird deaths. It is estimated that one billion birds die due to collision annually in the United States alone. Spring and Fall migratory periods are the most dangerous as birds are traveling further distances through unknown territories. It is clear that glass is the main problem, and there are several solutions that designers can take to help make panels easier to see for birds without affecting humans.
There are several transparent options available, including an ultra-violet coating. This is applied to the glass and reflects ultraviolet light, which will be practically invisible to humans but always visible to birds. Photovoltaic glass is another bird-friendly option. This type of glass contains cells which generate electricity, that is incorporated onto the glass in a photovoltaic sheet. Different levels of transparency are possible with this technology, including fully transparent options that are compatible with films that reflect ultraviolet light.
If you are willing to sacrifice some transparency, you might try adding a visible pattern to your glass. Ceramic and screen printing are both used for this and depending on the supplier, you can choose colors and regulate the opacity of the ink to get the exact pattern you are looking for. Two additional non-transparent options are dichroic glass and translucent glass. Dichroic glass is multi-colored and reflects light like a kaleidoscope. Translucent glass is porous and opaque and can even be designed to have a specific texture. Whichever option you choose, remember the pattern is important. Studies have shown that patterns with randomly arranged triangles are more effective than colored dots or stripes and patterns must follow the “2×2” rule to be effective (as birds tend to avoid gaps of this size).
Large cities like San Francisco and Toronto have started to incorporate these concerns into their regulations but there is still a long way to go. Although lighting and temporary solutions like curtains may help reduce collisions, permanent solutions need to be embraced by designers in order to see widespread change.
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