LEED Credit for Bird-Friendly Buildings

December 3, 2011

How many times have you heard a loud thump and watched as a bird crashed into your office window? Every year almost 1 billion birds die in America from collisions into buildings, a cause of death second only to loss of habitat. It’s a problem so pervasive among migratory birds that it’s estimated that 1–10 birds are killed per building in the United States every year.

The U.S. Green Building Council program has been concerned with these numbers for years and is now offering new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) credits to building designs that help our feathered friends.

Some of the most energy efficient and green minded designs are also the most dangerous to birds. Strategically placed glass that catches the most sunlight and heat during the day can be invisible to birds. Also, any landscaping planted around the buildings attracts birds, making collisions more likely.

“Because birds do not perceive conventionally formulated glass as a solid barrier, they fly into it,” the U.S. Green Building Council says. “They may mistake reflections as continuous space and be attracted to trees or other objects in, or visible through, a glassed-in space.”

The LEED accreditation system is based on credits awarded for green aspects of a design. In order to receive the bird-friendly credit, buildings must comply with four criteria: a façade requirement, an interior light requirement, an exterior light requirement, and a monitoring system. The program is being tested through the LEED pilot program to make sure the requirements are practical before officially adopting the bird-friendly credit.

Buildings can satisfy the façade requirement by using bird-friendly glass that is textured and/or opaque. The latest glass design to help birds features a design inspired by actual spider webs. The special ultraviolet coating is visible to birds but goes unseen by human eyes. The design blends smoothly with the architecture, yet birds will see a spider-web pattern spread across the surface. It’s the same way birds avoid crashing through spider webs in nature. Adjusting the reflectivity and the filtering of UV rays filtered through the glass also helps, and the Bird-Safe Glass Foundation is campaigning with the American Bird Conservancy to develop glass guidelines for cities across the country.

The interior/exterior light requirements can be easily met by turning off all interior lights after business hours and ensuring that outside lights aren’t angled up at the sky. These requirements also enforce energy conservation.

Cities such as San Francisco and Chicago already have feathered-friendly guidelines for new buildings, and the U.S. Green Building Council hopes the awareness grows to other cities. LEED is the top green design program in this country with 42,000 commercial buildings already certified. They won’t credit the windows on your garage door, but the next trip downtown may include more bird-friendly buildings.

Join in the discussion in the comments below and/or share the piece.

Photo credit: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by la.jo



Chris Keenan

is a green and general blog writer. He also maintains a personal cooking blog.