In late 2019, the New York City Council voted to mandate bird-friendly glass in all new construction and major renovations, below 75 feet, to reduce bird-strike fatalities across the five boroughs. This legislation is one of the many recent city initiatives, including the bill requiring green roofs on all new builds, to make New York City more environmentally conscious, especially in regards to the building and construction field.
The typical transparent glass currently used in standard buildings is obvious to the human eye. Birds, however, are unable to differentiate this glass from the surrounding environment, resulting in well over 100,000,000 annual bird fatalities from mistaking a glass facade for the sky. With the new legislation, the glass would still appear transparent to humans but would create an optical obstacle for birds, allowing them to see and safely avoid flying into the glass. Ultimately, the goal is to greatly decrease collision risks for the bird population in New York City.
The legislation is truly a “game changer” in the architecture industry. At Marin Architects, we are thrilled to not only be a part of such a pioneering initiative, but to be working in New York at a time when the city is making such a concentrated effort to be more environmentally friendly and cautious. We’re looking forward to implementing “bird-friendly” glass into our projects moving forward and finding new ways to be creative with the facades of our structures. Up until this point, developers and architecture firms based in New York City have never considered the impact architecture has on the local bird community, but it certainly makes sense when broken down. It is a large issue that needs to be addressed, and this legislation is raising important awareness.
In Europe, bird-friendly glass has had a presence for well over 30 years, offering a positive case study for architects here in the U.S. Knowing that the implementation of bird-friendly glass has been quite successful in other places, it will be interesting to see how it transforms our own city in the coming years.
The Future of Building in NYC
Many licensed architects and architecture firms around the city may still not fully understand the nuances of the bill; not much information has been released. It will likely take around 10 to 15 years to implement bird-friendly glass into regular practice, and it will definitely be a learning process for all of us in the industry. We are awaiting more precise details and expect to find out more about how this will specifically impact the architecture business in the next few months. Once the NYC Department of Building releases the particulars, architects will have to decipher what that means for their current project plans.
When analyzing the cost-related implications of incorporating bird-friendly glass, developers and architects are looking at around a 30 to 40 percent price difference. Retail space tenants, in particular, are likely to foot the heftiest bill because they occupy a majority of the first 75 feet of buildings in New York. However, over time, this will become the standard and will no longer seem like such a shock.
There are many simple measures architects can take within the design of a building to assist with the bird-friendly movement. For instance, fritted glass panels, which are produced by sintering together glass particles into a solid yet porous (and visible) uniform panel, and other patterned glass materials can all be installed to protect birds from collisions.
This bill shows that we are living in a time where cities care about wildlife and the environment in the long term, which is a positive step in the right direction. New York City is leading the charge within the U.S. and hopefully other cities will soon follow suit. We at Marin Architects are excited to dive into this new legislation to see what we can do for our city and the environment and are happy to be a part of this ever-evolving industry.