Changing Glass Architecture to Prevent Bird Deaths

Maggie Krantz / week 14 / post 10

In a world where glittering skyscrapers are reaching new heights and the use of all glass facades is commonplace, an often overlooked side effect is the negative impact they have on birds. Up to 1 billion birds die every year by flying into glass because they can’t tell the difference from open air. In the past, this problem was rarely, if ever, taken into account when designing a new building. Now, however, fowl enthusiasts have made the bird well-being conversation a norm. We have a duty to mitigate the negative impact our structures have on the species we cohabit with. By creating new legislature and code guidelines as well as research and advocacy, these groups are creating a more inclusive and healthy environment for the previously neglected species.

Juvenile red-tailed hawk flies at a window

One man on the forefront of this fight is Guy Maxwell, a partner at Ennead Architects based in New York. He, along with other bird groups and enthusiasts, are researching bird-safe technology and regulations as well as raising awareness for the problem. They have worked with glass manufacturers to produce more bird-friendly products. They also partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program in 2011 to create a pilot credit that, according to the American Bird Conservancy, “encourages architects to limit the use of glass, incorporate glass with bird-friendly patterns, or design features like shades to reduce threat of collision.”

More projects around the world are also helping to stop unnecessary avian deaths through interesting architectural designs. The Aqua Tower in Chicago is an 82-story building that disrupts a smooth, reflective death trap with wavy balconies to provide bird perches and less confusion. Other projects in San Francisco, Utah, and here in Minnesota incorporated fritted glass, cut-out facades, and fractured screens to stop birds from flying into them.


This is still a new issue that is not taken into account enough. With more research, advocacy, and innovative design, this problem can be remedied. According to Maxwell, “There’s generally an awareness of this problem now. You see architects considering this when before they had no idea it was even a problem.” The future for birds looks bright with different research and advocacy fighting for them.

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One comment

  1. xion0851

    Xiong, Chelsy. Blog comment // Week 14

    Although you talked about the problem of glass facades and trying to find ways to prevent them, I would have rather seen you research how the new designs have affected the bird populations. Have they indeed helped prevent bird deaths? I would have also liked to hear what you would do theoretically for the birds and what you would have designed as well as how you would reach the majority about the problem. I think that the problem is a subject that isn’t spoken about as we don’t know how this would affect the environment and animal kingdom (going off your post and not researching myself haha) so most people choose to ignore that fact and just design buildings that look pretty for the human eye.

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