A Look at Some New Developments in Bird-Friendly Glazing

As many as one billion birds die each year from building collisions. So says the National Audubon Society (NAS), an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats. NAS says collision-based fatalities account for 2 to 9% of all birds in North America in any given year, making building strikes “second only to feral and free-roaming cats as a source of human-caused avian mortality in the United States.” Daytime crashes occur when birds mistake the reflection of an open sky or nearby vegetation for the real thing. These collisions occur because birds can’t see the glass. Instead, they see what’s reflected in the glass. As a result, glazing products designed to mitigate these occurrences have made their way to the market.

Bird-friendly glass itself is well-known. These products are specially designed to make
the glass visible to birds while still being transparent for humans. Several other products
have entered the market offering additional ways to create a bird-friendly façade.

Laminated Glass Interlayers

Recognizing the risks that large glazed structures can present to both local and migrating birds, Kuraray recently introduced Trosifol® BirdSecure and SentryGlas® BirdSecure. These bird-friendly interlayers incorporate a dot pattern on Trosifol® UltraClear and
SentryGlas®, respectively.

This technology involves printing directly onto the interlayer rather than the glass.

The new offering has been fully tested to American Bird Conservancy standards and can be used on its own or with solar-control coatings.

In partnership with SEEN AG, Eastman Chemical also entered the bird-friendly market with its new polyvinyl butyral interlayer, Saflex FlySafe 3D. The new interlayer features three-dimensional, reflective sequins between two layers of glass. The sequins catch the light at different angles, subtly twinkling to deter birds from the glass. According to the company, the discreet sequin pattern covers less than 1% of the glass area.

Collision Laboratories in Hohenau-Ringelsdorf, Austria, tested and rated the 3D-reflective technology used in Saflex FlySafe 3D.

Coatings

While traditional ceramic frits can make the glass more visible to birds, their primary purpose is usually privacy or solar control. Frits are typically applied to interior glass surfaces. Research has shown, however, that the most effective bird-friendly solutions typically incorporate some marking on the exterior surface (first surface). Glass Coatings and Concepts (GCC) introduced the EX Series Surface One ceramic enamel, an engineered frit for first surface application. The frit is engineered to withstand external elements better and is more durable compared to standard ceramic frit coatings. The Surface One product line is designed to be screen printed and creates a bird-friendly glass when applied in approved patterns.

Existing Building Solutions

Historically, most bird-friendly products are used in new construction applications. However, some products have been developed for the retrofit market.

HEGLA boraident from Halle in Germany offers laser printing equipment to prevent bird strikes. Called LaserBird, the system can print subtle patterns, such as tiny dots or geometric elements, almost invisible to humans.

Until recently, the equipment was used to apply the patterns to the glass before installation. A new option now prints the dot patterns onto an existing building. The equipment is attached to a crane and moves across the façade, laser printing the pattern. The American Bird Conservancy has tested the printed glass and approved it for use in the American market.

Window film is also increasingly relevant. For biologist Dominique Waddoup, founder and CEO of Austria’s BirdShades, window film can provide a solution.

“Our mission is to save birds; to make the sky a safe place for birds to fly,” Waddoup says. “Dying from window collisions is a needless death.”

Together with co-founder and material science expert Christoph Cerny, Waddoup is working to decrease the number of bird collisions that occur annually. She witnessed the disturbing trend firsthand when studying animal behavior and biology at The University of Graz in Austria.

“At my university, there was a glass corridor with lots of bird-window collisions,” Waddoup says. “I wanted to find a solution because there were so many birds [crashing] within two months. I went to the university to take action, but they wouldn’t accept any of the visible solutions because it was a very architectural, fancy glass corridor.”

Waddoup built a BirdShades prototype in 2016, later founding the company in 2019. Waddoup and Cerny developed an adhesive film that’s applied to glass. It’s advertised as invisible to humans, but birds can see its ultraviolet-reflective pattern.

Taking Action

Cities and other jurisdictions across the U.S. and Canada continue to push for safer glass buildings for birds. Mountain View, Calif., New York City and Toronto have mandatory guidelines calling for bird-friendly glass. In New York, for example, Local Law 15 requires all new buildings, from houses to skyscrapers, to use at least 90% bird-friendly materials in the first 75 feet above grade.

Ellen Rogers is the editorial director for USGlass magazine. Email her at
erogers@glass.com and connect with her on Linked In. Assistant editor Chris Collier contributed to this article.

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