Bird-Friendly Buildings Eligible for LEED Credit

A new green building credit for "bird friendly buildings" is being tested by the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED rating system.

Bird-Friendly Building

Building designers and developers will be able to earn credit for using design strategies that reduce bird collisions.

Building collision is among the leading causes of bird mortality in the US, killing as many as a billion birds a year. They can’t see glass and are attracted to lighted areas at night, which can divert them from migration paths toward city environments, where they collide with buildings. 

As building designers strive for ever-greater energy, they tend to incorporate more glass to bring in daylight, and green buildings often emphasize native landscaping, which also attracts birds.

"Incorporating design strategies that reduce the impact our built environment has on wildlife is a logical extension of the philosophy upon which we’ve built the LEED rating system for the past decade," says Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, USGBC. "The LEED Pilot Credit Library allows us to expand the range of issues LEED addresses while staying true to our mission."

The credit, developed by USGBC committees and working group members, is being tested in the LEED Pilot Credit Library to make sure it’s effective. The pilot library is a rating system development tool that encourages testing of new and revised LEED credit language, alternative compliance paths, and new or innovative green building technologies and concepts.

To earn the credit, buildings will be required to comply with a facade requirement, and interior and exterior light requirements, as well as develop a monitoring program.

The facade requirement focuses on the creation of "visual noise" to help birds distinguish inviting sky from unwelcoming wall by the making glass less reflective and more textured and/or opaque.

To comply with lighting requirements, simple adjustments could be made such as simply turning off all the interior lights or  making sure exterior lights aren’t angled up toward the sky.

Some newer, high-performance green buildings still use large expanses of glass, but incorporate additional architectural elements to fend off birds. The Bird Collision Deterrence Pilot Credit addresses indoor and outdoor lighting design and operation, building façade requirements, performance monitoring, and threat factors. It emphasizes creating "visual noise" that birds can perceive and thereby avoid hitting glass. This means modifying glass reflectivity, color (including UV), texture, or opacity.

The Audubon Society, cities of Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto have published guidelines for bird-safe buildings, but they are still largely absent from most green projects. If this LEED credit is approved, it would be optional and would provide just one credit. 

Bird-friendly building guidelines:

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