A bill requiring newly built, acquired or renovated majority state-funded buildings to follow bird-friendly windows and shielded nighttime lighting standards is making its way through the Maryland General Assembly. The Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 states that buildings receiving 51% of Maryland state funding must include bird-friendly and energy-efficient windows.

The Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 states that buildings receiving 51% of Maryland state funding must include bird-friendly and energy-efficient windows. Pictured: Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Irina Sitnikova.

If passed, state buildings will need to follow standards consistent with U.S. Green Building Council Innovation Credit and American Bird Conservancy bird-friendly design recommendations.

According to the bill’s preamble, the amount of glass used in new building construction has increased dramatically in Maryland, threatening to undo energy conservation efforts and contribute to climate change and biodiversity loss. Adopting building standards to protect birds will reduce energy consumption, making state buildings more sustainable and saving taxpayers money.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service states that etched, fritted and frosted glass reduces bird collisions and energy costs while simultaneously reducing cooling loads and allowing natural lighting of buildings.

“The building standards embodied in this bill would conserve energy and reduce bird mortality by more than 90%,” says Dr. Mark Southerland of Safe Skies Maryland. The organization aims to raise awareness in Maryland about the threats of migratory and resident bird collisions with man-made structures.

Bird-Friendly Measures

Officials from Safe Skies Maryland state that the U.S. loses one billion birds each year to collisions with windows. The losses are especially felt in Maryland, where wildlife watching generates more than $450 million in economic activity annually.

“I witnessed the construction of the first of several new, large glass buildings being built in downtown Washington, D.C., and realized that we were creating a deathtrap for birds migrating through our community,” says Southerland. “I realized that, as the number of glass buildings statewide and nationwide was growing rapidly, bird deaths from building collisions were about to worsen.”

Maryland’s bill follows similar bird-friendly building standard laws passed in cities and states throughout the country. Maryland’s own Howard County passed Bird Friendly Design Standards CB11 in 2020, which requires most large, public and private buildings to comply with bird-friendly building standards.

Maryland’s neighbor, Washington, D.C., recently passed the Migratory Local Wildlife Protection Act of 2022. The law requires new construction building permits or alterations involving the replacement of all exterior glazing on commercial buildings, multi-unit residential buildings, institutional facilities, or District-owned and operated buildings to include bird-friendly materials up to 100 feet. This does not include historic landmarks and single-family homes.

The Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act of 2023 will also ensure that interior and exterior lighting shall be “appropriately shielded and minimized from midnight to dawn each day.” Exceptions will be made for buildings where lighting is documented and warranted, such as for public safety or other purposes.

The bill was introduced on Jan. 11, 2023. It currently resides in the Maryland House of Delegates. If enacted, the act will take effect on Oct. 1, 2023, and be updated every five years.