A 2014 study by the Smithsonian found that collisions with glass kill between 365 million and 1 billion birds annually in the United States.
Madison buildings will be required to undergo bird-safe glass treatment after a unanimous vote by the City Council Tuesday.
The ordinance intends to reduce the number of bird deaths caused by glass collisions, but met some resistance from local developers and businesses.
Madison’s bird-safe glass ordinance took several cues from efforts by UW-Madison and local bird wildlife conservation groups, notably the Bird Collision Corps, a partnership between UW-Madison, the American Bird Conservancy, the Madison Audubon society, and the Wildlife Rehabilitation center.
The ordinance, adopted by the Madison Common Council this week, will require certain buildings and structures to treat their glass with patterns or other methods to increase visibility for birds. Patterns can vary between dots, lines, or other shapes, but must be spaced no more than 2 inches apart.
William Connors, representing the developers advocacy group Smarter Growth Greater Madison, worries it will further exacerbate oncoming development slumps caused by COVID-19, and drive up costs for tenants.
Connors says, “This is the time when the city should be acting to encourage development, more development, not discourage it because there’s a very large gap in the pipeline coming up soon.”
Other businesses and developers share this sentiment, pointing to the high costs of several glass-treatment methods. According to Connors, a square foot of glass costs $12, with the cheapest birdsafe treatment potentially bringing the cost up to $24 a square foot. The most expensive method, a uv layer within the glass pane, could cost nearly $48, four times as much as a normal glass pane. However, the ordinance does not require UV layers.
Bryan Lenz, the glass collision program manager for American Bird Conservancy, says that treating the glass to make it bird-safe has the added benefit of reducing heating and cooling costs.
Lenz says, “This saves significant amounts of money for the tenants that everybody is concerned about, which is something that is not factored into upfront costs. Not to mention that saving birds is the right thing to do ethically and for a healthy environment.”
Brenna Marsicek, the Director of Communications & Outreach for the bird wildlife conservation group Madison Audubon, says she hopes that the bird-safe glass ordinance will expand beyond Madison.
Marsicek says, “We’d also love to see other cities nearby adopt a similar type of ordinance to make this area a lot safer for birds in general.”