American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2008 Professional Awards
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Bird-Safe Building Guidelines. Image: SCAPE
The increase use of glass poses a distinct threat to birdlife, to the degree that scientists have classified bird mortality caused by building collisions as a "biologically significant" issue affecting the viability of bird populations, leading to local and regional declines.(Photo: NYC Audubon)
(Photo: Cal Vornberger)
Conditions affecting bird collisions include: proximity to stopover location, building height, glass coverage and glazing characteristics, building orientation and massing features, and proximity to feeding grounds. The map inset above shows the broad-front migration of songbirds across North America.(Photos: Cal Vornberger and NYC Audubon)
(Photo: Cal Vornberger)
Understanding the conditions that contribute to bird collisions with buildings is the first step toward planning bird-safe environments. The illumination of buildings creates conditions that are particularly hazardous to nighttime migrating birds (Beacon Effect, right).(Image: SCAPE)


Bird-Safe Building Guidelines
SCAPE Landscape Architecture PLLC, New York, New York
client: New York City Audubon

"The health and well-being of wildlife is an important and often overlooked topic. This piece pulls at the heartstrings and has broad implications for landscape architects and architects alike."

— 2008 Professional Awards Jury Comments

PROJECT STATEMENT: The Bird-Safe Building Guidelines publication is a 55-page manual that was created to reach a wide audience of all those concerned with the design and management of the built environment. It reveals the magnitude of bird-collisions with glass, describes the conditions that cause these deadly collisions, and presents clear strategies to mitigate this problem through design – both design of new sites & structures and retrofit of existing conditions.

PROJECT NARRATIVE: The Guidelines examine the causes of bird mortality in the built environment; convey the ecological, economic, ethical and legal justifications for bird conservation; advocate a series of preventative and rehabilitative strategies, and describe precedents for regulatory initiatives. They strive to stimulate the development of new glazing technologies while creating a market for all bird-safe building sites and systems.

Glazed buildings that make up modern city skylines and suburban settings present serious hazards for birds. Habitat reflected in glassy facades serves as a deadly lure. Bird populations, already in decline from loss of habitat and wintering grounds, are seriously threatened by the relatively recent incursion of man-made structures into avian air space. In the United States, an estimated 100 million to 1 billion birds perish each year from encounters with buildings & adjacent reflected landscapes – as sky or vegetation. The Guidelines are intended to both raise general awareness and specifically complement and inform today’s green building initiatives, especially the widely utilized LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council.

The entrant, a registered landscape architect, NYC Audubon member and Project Safe Flight Volunteer, came up with the idea to create a pamphlet describing ‘What You Can Do’ to minimize bird mortality in the built environment. She collaborated with the Executive Director of the NYC Audubon to write a grant proposal to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to get funding to produce the guidelines, as well as an associated web design and mapping project. After the NYC Audubon was awarded the grant, she then served as a Design Fellow and Project Director, coordinating and editing the effort by hiring a colleague to author the guideline text, graphic designers to help convey the ideas, a web designer to get it online, and interns to assist with research and administration. She also got the publication vetted by both the ‘bird people’ and the ‘design community.”

Close collaborators in this project include the current and former Executive Director of the NYC Audubon Society, two architects who served as consultants and inspiration for the project, and who reviewed drafts and provided research and materials, the writer of the guideline text and her assistant, and a member of the NYC Audubon Board who liaised with the bird community and provided input relative to the “birder’s perspective.”

The project is unique in that it bridges between the design community and the world of ornithology to address a crucial issue in the built environment. This interdisciplinarity also created special challenges, since each group sees issues from their own perspective. The role of the Project Director went beyond simply coordinating the publication ideas and production to “translating” across these disciplines – a skill learned over many years practicing as a landscape architect and working collaboratively with a wide range of perspectives and expertise.

The Bird-Safe Guidelines are available to the general public for download free of charge on the NYC Audubon website. They have received considerable notice in the design community, most recently in “Form Follows Feathers: Bird Friendly Architecture,” an article in Architectural Record. The publication also recently received an ASLA New York Chapter Honor Award in the Planning, Analysis, Research and Communications Category.


Published by:
New York City Audubon Society, Inc. May 2007

Project Director:
Kate Orff, RLA, Columbia University GSAPP/ SCAPE landscape architecture pllc

Hillary Brown, AIA, Steven Caputo, New Civic Works
NYC Audubon Project Staff:  E.J. McAdams, Marcia Fowle, Glenn Phillips, Chelsea Dewitt, Yigal Gelb

Benedict Clouette, Nick Kothari, Betsy Stoel, Li-Chi Wang

Karen Cotton, Acting Director, Bird-Safe Working Group; Randi Doeker, Birds & Buildings Forum; Bruce Fowle, FAIA, Daniel Piselli, FXFOWLE; Marcia Fowle; Yigal Gelb, Program Director, NYC Audubon; Mary Jane Kaplan; Daniel Klem, Jr., PhD., Muhlenberg College; Albert M. Manville, PhD., US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service; E. J. McAdams, Former Executive Director NYC, Audubon; Glenn Phillips, Executive Director, NYC Audubon.




(Image: SCAPE)
The Ford Calumet Environment Center is a proposed 4,000-acre open space located on Chicago's south side that was the subject of a recent international design competition. The site incorporates large expanses of marshes, wetlands, and prairies that serve as stopover sites for migratory birds. Concerned that a glass-clad visitor center would kill the species that the public is coming to see, the competition's winners made bird safety a guiding priority in their design proposal. The designers took inspiration from birds' nest construction, envisioning a basket-like woven screen that also incorporated locally discarded industrial steel scrap. Positioning the screen around the glass fašade, which is tilted downwards, reduces collisions while still allowing views of the surrounding environment. In addition to promoting bird safety, the woven screen shades the building, creates an exciting spatial and textural experience for visitors, and functions as a "blind" on the viewing deck that allows people to get close to the birds without creating a disturbance.(Image: SCAPE)
(Photo: Cal Vornberger)
It is estimate that 100 million birds are killed every year in the United State alone through collisions with buildings. Second only to habitat loss as a cause of declining population, some experts believe the number is even higher, perhaps as many as one billion killed annual.(Photo: SCAPE)
Bird Safe Design Guidelines. (Image: SCAPE)
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