Guardian Insights

The Critical Role of Bird-Friendly Glass

June 5, 2019

How your support of the IGMA Bird Deterrent Glass Research Fund will help protect birds

This is a guest post by Christine Sheppard, Ph.D., director of the glass collisions program at American Bird Conservancy

Up to one billion birds are killed in building collisions in the United States every year. While this can happen to any bird, migratory birds like warblers and thrushes, flying between their breeding and wintering grounds in spring and fall, are the most frequent victims.

To birds, trees and sky reflected in glass appear to be habitat, or they try to fly to habitat seen through glass, not understanding that there is a barrier.

It took time, but there is increasing recognition that buildings shouldn’t kill birds and that bird-friendly design is not an add-on. It should be part of the design process from the beginning. You need look no further than architectural and glass media and consumer media to see a steady drumbeat of stories about new products, new legislation and new studies to help protect birds from building collisions. Glass manufacturers, architects and government entities are coming together to seek solutions.

Guardian Glass, through its Science and Technology team, was one of the first glass manufacturers to actively develop products intended to deter collisions, and American Bird Conservancy has evaluated their ideas at our test “tunnel” in Pennsylvania. The result is a range of Guardian Glass products that meet ABC’s criteria for “bird-friendly” and that give architects options to combine bird safety with aesthetics and solar performance.

In addition to its successful product development, Guardian Glass’ work with us and strong partnership with the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) led to Guardian spearheading and facilitating conversations between American Bird Conservancy and IGMA to create a fundraising campaign. These funds will go to pay for the construction of a second tunnel test site to screen new products being tested by all product manufacturers. The result of those efforts is the IGMA Bird Deterrent Glass Research Fund, which provides the fenestration industry a means for contributing funds to a second test tunnel project and its operation. The test tunnel is used to determine the efficacy of glass products in deterring bird strikes.

This will be beneficial for architects and the product selection process, because it will significantly loosen the current bottleneck for testing new bird-friendly glass products. This is a rapidly expanding market thanks to American Bird Conservancy’s advocacy work and the numerous bird-friendly building guidelines or requirements being passed in the U.S. and Canada.

My colleague Bryan Lenz will be on the exhibit floor at the American Institute of Architects Conference to continue the conversation about bird-friendly solutions. Please visit Guardian’s booth #6907 to learn more about our collaboration. You can also visit the IGMA Bird Deterrent Glass Research Fund site to learn more about our work.

And please join Guardian Glass in donating. We will all benefit from more innovative products that will help protect birds, while still advancing beautiful, energy-efficient new construction and retrofits.

Christine Sheppard, Ph.D.
Director, Glass Collisions Program
American Bird Conservancy

Christine earned her PhD at Cornell University. Her interest in captive propagation as a tool to save endangered species led her to the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, where she started as curatorial intern and ended as head of the Ornithology Department, along the way learning how to make glass safe for birds. She joined ABC ten years ago, to work on this problem full time. In addition to rating bird-friendly materials, ABC offers and AIA/LEED CES class on bird-friendly design and has produced resources explaining the science behind collisions and solutions.