The Statue of Liberty Museum, designed by FXCollaborative and completed in 2019, employs low-reflective, insulated glass with an original frit pattern to deter bird collisions. Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of FXCollaborative
The Statue of Liberty Museum, designed by FXCollaborative and completed in 2019, employs low-reflective, insulated glass with an original frit pattern to deter bird collisions. Photo: Iwan Baan, courtesy of FXCollaborative

Bird-Friendly Building Design

Because of research programs like our own Project Safe Flight, we now understand that up to one billion birds are killed in collisions with glass across the U.S. each year. As the conservation community has come to grasp the gravity of this threat to birds over recent decades, architects and design professionals have responded to the growing call for bird-friendly design. 
 
Today there are solutions available that make glass visible to birds, options for bird-friendly construction materials, and a multitude of ways to design buildings to minimize their risk of harming birds. The glass facades of modern office buildings are not only dangerous to birds; they can also dramatically increase energy consumption for heating and cooling. As a result, bird-friendly design elements are now often considered an integral part of sustainable design.
 

In order to promote the adoption of bird-friendly design both locally and as an industry standard, we support bird-friendly policy and legislation through grassroots advocacy campaigns and outreach to stakeholders in New York City government. Our professional outreach and education includes seminars based on Bird-Friendly Building Design, our joint publication with American Bird Conservancy.





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Future Policy and Advocacy Efforts

Int. 1482/Local Law 15 addresses new and substantially renovated buildings in New York City. Existing buildings are our next challenge. Until we can secure legislation that would address such existing structures, we must identify the deadliest buildings, individually approach building owners and key tenants, offer assistance, and encourage the installation of simple remedies
 
You can help us protect birds from collisions:   



If you would like more information on bird-friendly design, or to request an AIA accredited training session to receive continuing education credits, please contact us at bird-friendly-design@nycaudubon.org. 


Postcards to government officials were part of NYC Audubon’s successful advocacy for bird-friendly building legislation in New York City. Photo: NYC Audubon
Postcards to government officials were part of NYC Audubon’s successful advocacy for bird-friendly building legislation in New York City. Photo: NYC Audubon
Policy and Legislation
December 2019 marked a major victory for NYC’s birds. The New York City Council passed Initiative 1482-2019, now Local Law 15, the most comprehensive bird-friendly building legislation in the U.S. This bill amends the New York City building code to require that new construction, and significantly altered buildings, use bird-friendly materials. The bill became law January 10, 2020, and goes into effect one year later, with bird-friendly buildings being built or adapted as early as January 2021. 
 
Passing Int. 1482-2019 took an enormous group effort, and it was a long time coming. NYC Audubon advocated for passage of the bill, originally introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Rafael Espinal, with a collaborative working group composed of members of the Bird-Safe Buildings Alliance (including representatives from NYC Audubon, American Bird Conservancy, and the architectural firms FXCollaborative and Ennead, as well as Alan Steel from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, American Institute of Architects New York, and volunteer lawyers and policy advocates). 
 
We worked with the City Council and the Mayor’s Office, and took into account the practical concerns of industry stakeholders such as the Real Estate Board of New York, to strengthen the bill through amendments that made it effective in saving birds, reasonable for building owners, and enforceable. 
 
The resulting final version of Int. 1482/Local Law 15 requires bird-friendly materials (not just glass) uniformly on 90 percent of facades up to 75 feet; up to 12 feet above green roofs; and at all glass railings and other hazardous elements, regardless of how high they are located on a building’s exterior. 
Female Common Yellowthroat found by Project Safe Flight Volunteer François Portmann at the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan. Photo:<a href="http://www.fotoportmann.com/" target="_blank" >François Portmann</a>
Female Common Yellowthroat found by Project Safe Flight Volunteer François Portmann at the Time Warner Center in Midtown Manhattan. Photo:François Portmann
Take a Course in Bird-Friendly Building Design
Since 2011, NYC Audubon has taught a “Bird-Friendly Building Design” class at architectural firms in the City. The course, developed by the American Bird Conservancy, offers continuing education credit, and teaches the causes of collisions, the hazards buildings present for birds, and the range of solutions and strategies that can be employed to mitigate those risks. As of spring 2020, around 500 NYC architects have taken the class. It can also be adapted for developers, contractors, or other professionals who wish to learn more. If interested in taking our class, email bird-friendly-design@nycaudubon.org.
 
 
NYC Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Building Design course being taught at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo: NYC Audubon
NYC Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Building Design course being taught at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo: NYC Audubon
Read Our Bird-Friendly Building Design Manual
Learn more about bird-friendly design principles in NYC Audubon’s joint publication with the American Bird Conservancy, Bird-Friendly Building Design. First published in 2007 and now in wide circulation among architects and builders around the country, this landmark publication is a manual for architects, landscape designers, engineers, glass technicians, developers, building managers, government officials, and the general public. 
 
Bird safety in buildings is integral to the "green" sustainable building movement, and the guidelines suggest strategies that complement the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating system. The guidelines also suggest ways to retrofit existing buildings. Bird-Friendly Building Design is an important resource for all people in the building and design industries as well as policy makers.
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