Chicago Proposes High-Rise Bird Ordinance


New legislation being proposed in Chicago is aiming to make the city’s skyline a little more bird friendly, according to proponents of the bill.

The Bird Friendly Design ordinance was introduced by Ald. Brian Hopkins and reintroduced by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., on Jan. 23, according to the Chicago Tribune, and will encourage—and sometimes mandate—bird-friendly design on high-rises.

The problem occurs when birds are flying at night and can’t tell that the glass is actually a wall, leading them to collide with the structure. Exterior lights also confused birds into circling buildings multiple times to the point of exhaustion. Both instances can result in death.

“I think we’re all interested in doing what we can to protect the birds during their migration season,” said Michael Cornicelli, executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago. “I think it’s a matter of determining what are the most cost-effective measures to do that.”

Backed by a coalition of groups including the Chicago Audubon Society, backers say that the costs added to new construction will not be significant, though they recognize that applying the proposed rules to renovations might be a harder sell.

The measure includes requiring:

  • at least 95 percent of a building’s facade, from the ground to a height of 36 feet, either not be sheathed in glass or have bird-safe glass with etching, frosting or mounted elements such as screens;
  • that nonessential exterior lighting be automatically shut off between 11 p.m. and sunrise; and
  • interior landscaping always be placed behind bird-friendly exterior glass.

Proponents point to San Francisco, which has a similar ordinance, and projects such as the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena, which has been dubbed the first-ever bird-friendly arena.

Arena designer Populous reportedly tweaked the design of the glass after organization Bird City Wisconsin talked to the team about the arena’s location in the middle of a migration path.

On that structure, certain points in the building’s exterior are glass windows extending form the ground all the way through the swooping roof. For this glass, the design called for a thin ceramic pattern coating, or fritting. Officials on that project noted that there were no extra costs because of the fritting.

The Chicago legislation would apply to public buildings constructed, significantly renovated or bought by the U.S. General Services Administration, and would require these buildings use bird-safe building materials and design features to the maximum extent possible.

According to the Tribune, this is the fifth time Quigley has introduced such legislation. The first time was in 2010.


Tagged categories: Building envelope; Building facades; Color + Design; Facade Maintenance Design; Glass; Laws and litigation; North America; Stadiums/Sports Facilities

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