New NYC buildings must be constructed with bird-friendly materials

December 11, 2019

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The New York City Council approved on Tuesday a bill requiring new buildings to be constructed with bird-friendly materials. Considered the most extensive policy of its kind in the country, the initiative mandates new glass buildings, as well as projects undergoing a major renovation, to be equipped with materials that are easier for birds to see. Each year, between roughly 90,000 and 230,000 birds die each year in New York City from colliding with glass buildings, according to the NYC Audubon. 

The bill, set to take effect one year after it becomes law, requires 90 percent of the building envelope for the first 75 feet to include glass that is visible to birds, which could involve special glazing or pattern on the windows. The same feather-friendly materials will be required on exterior walls that are next to green roof systems and on other installations that are hazardous for birds, like glass awnings and handrails.

Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr. introduced the bill earlier this year following a tour of Jacob K. Javits Center’s bird-friendly green roof, which was renovated in 2013 by FXCollaborative after being dubbed as one of the deadliest buildings in the city for birds. Since refurbishing the building with glass that has patterns birds interpret as obstacles, avian deaths dropped there by 90 percent.

“Every year over 2 billion birds die from window collisions in this country,” Espinal said in a statement. “And since New York City is along the bird migration route, between 90,000 and 230,000 birds, from hawks to hummingbirds, die from flying into buildings in our city.”

“This bill will add to our environmental legacy as we are taking responsibility for our role in the ecosystem that lasted long before towering skyscrapers,” he added.

Espinal crafted the legislation with help from a team made up of the American Bird Conservancy, NYC Audubon, the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Bird-safe Buildings Alliance, and architects from FXCollaborative and Ennead Architects.

“This bill is a compromise forged by our diverse consortium, which wrestled with and reconciled competing interests of many sorts–design, light, height, use, location, cost, bird mortality…It’s a huge leap forward for long-term conservation,” Kathryn Heintz, the executive director of NYC Audubon, said in a statement. “It will reduce collisions and save migratory birds whose numbers are declining dramatically.”

The bill’s passage comes less than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed state legislation that would have created a task force to develop bird-friendly building regulations. While Cuomo called it a “laudatory pursuit,” he voiced concern over the cost of setting up the task force, as well as the study. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law.


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