It is estimated that 100 million birds are killed every year in the United States alone through collisions with buildings
– NY Audubon

There is a very good resource from NY Audubon called Bird Safe Building Guidelines. Every aspect of design and planning should think about the impact of that design on surrounding wildlife. While many species of wildlife may not be present in the urban environment, many species of birds to fly over or through cities, especially during migration. Many major cities are located along major migratory routes, here on the west coast is the Pacific Flyway. One aspect many designers, architect, landscape architect or otherwise don’t often consider is the impact of that design on potential collisions. Windows have many ways of tricking birds from reflection to seeing through the other side or lights acting as a beacon.

We need to first understand the potential of designs for collision and then to design in a way to prevent it from being a problem. A single office building in NY was responsible for the death of 72 birds in just 8 days. The resource listed above has excellent suggestions for new construction, many of which offer exciting and new design possibilities. Existing buildings can be retrofitted to prevent collisions as well. Landscape architects also have guidelines in the publication on where to place plant materials and how to manage habitat in relation to buildings.

Instead of seeing this as a problem or hurdle however, it can provide ideas for creative genius. For example, one of the ideas for retrofitting existing buildings was a green screen, or a netting for plants to grow along in front of a window. This has potential for further habitat for a multitude of wildlife species such as pollinators, birds and even small mammals or reptiles providing the proper connections. Planting trees closer to buildings to reduce the speed of flying birds also provides opportunities for the people inside to observe wildlife that may forage in the trees at a close distance. Many things we see as obstacles can be instead turned into a very good thing.

Kelly Brenner
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