U.S. Bank stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings football team, could have been an example of a large building with bird-safe glass. It isn’t.

 

The new Bell Museum of Natural History on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus, scheduled to open in mid-July, is that building.    

 

Bird-safe means the glass contains elements that makes the pane visible as something other than background reflection. This is intended to deter birds from flying into the glass. 

 

Birds that collide with windows often suffer death or injuries that later prove fatal. Broken bones and concussions are common in collisions. Internal injuries occur, becoming fatal days later. Injured birds also are susceptible to predation.

 

The problem of bird/glass safety was discussed here at a meeting in
April. Dr. Christine Sheppard, Bird Collisions Campaign manager for American Bird Conservancy, spoke to an audience at Beth El Synagogue  in St. Louis Park.

 

She talked about the stadium and how its expansive glass areas might be retro-fitted to deter bird collisions. It could be done outside or inside, she said. 

 

She said that 3M is working on a “promising” window treatment product. The issue is marketing, she said. The cost of development and production requires sufficient demand.

 

Jerry Bahls, president of the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, said he believes possibility of a solution remains. He sees pressure on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission, which oversees stadium issues.

 

He said the authority was “receptive” during a presentation on the issue.

 

Dr. Sheppard expressed doubt that any remedial efforts will be made.

 

Also mentioned at the meeting was the stadium bird/glass research project underway by ornithologists from the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University. The Audubon chapter is a joint sponsor. 

 

Results of that study will be available next year.

 

As you would expect, the University of Minnesota took a very positive position on birds and the glass for the new museum.

 

Architects Perkins+Will, a local firm, worked with ViraCon, the Owatonna company that manufactured special glass for the project. The glass contains visible elements called frits. 

 

“As far as we can tell the frit treatment is performing as expected both in terms of bird-friendliness and energy efficiency,” said Andria Waclawski, communications manager for the museum. 

 

The architects thought beyond the glass itself, taking interior and exterior lighting choices and landscape design into consideration, she said.

 

“We consider the museum to be a living laboratory and have been and will continue to monitor the site,” she said.

 

Dr. Sheppard said she believes that Minnesota is “ahead of the curve” on bird/glass safety issues. 

 

Minnesota law requires bird-friendly design for buildings funded by the state. Bird-safe building guidelines address all major areas of construction, from plans to completion.

 

Minnesota building projects beginning the schematic design phase after May 1, 2013, are required to use bird-friendly guidelines. 

 

Projects beginning that design phase before this date were allowed to continue with the former standards. The stadium was such a project.

 

“The population here is very sensitive to this issue,” Dr. Sheppard said. “You are much better educated about this.”

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