American architects fight against bird slaughter

In the United States, specialists estimate that a billion birds die each year when they crash into buildings, deceived by their transparency or disoriented by shiny facades and bright lights. Since the 1960s, technological and architectural advances have made America’s major cities even more dangerous for them. The use of float glass, perfectly transparent and smooth, makes the glazed surface of the buildings indistinguishable, while the installation of double-glazed glass increases the reflection of the sun.

Faced with this dramatic situation, several architects are imagining buildings that are both aesthetically innovative and protective of birds. When designing the Aqua Tower in Chicago in 2007, architect Jeanne Gang opted for an irregular facade, which birds can more easily distinguish. Others choose to integrate screens or grilles, which provide shade and therefore make surfaces less reflective.

Some architects are experimenting with the use of new types of glass, which feature patterns or coatings that birds can perceive. This is the solution chosen by the architectural firm FXCollaborative during its renovation of the Jacob K Javits Convention Center in New York. The sparkling building, which caused the collision of 4,000 to 5,000 birds per year, now displays a surface of sintered glass, engraved with tiny raised dots. This type of glass also saves energy by keeping the building cooler. The building was also equipped with a green roof, which is now home to several avian species including a colony of herring gulls. These green roofs and facades, which serve as shelters for birds, are increasingly common in large American cities, particularly in New York.

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