Have you noticed white dots on the windows?

Bird friendly windows on the new hospital

Registered nurse Tessa Shelvey is delighted there are visual markers in the form of white dots on the windows in the new building, as they help to prevent birds from colliding into windows

With the arrival of the spring equinox, the presence of birds is a sure sign that sunshine and warmer weather are just around the corner. Among the many critters that frequent West Park, birds bring life and a soothing natural soundscape to the campus.

Known for being a leader in green health care, West Park’s new hospital provides an opportunity to incorporate the latest in building codes and standards, which further strengthens its sustainability efforts. 

This includes implementing recommendations from the Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines set-out by the City of Toronto’s Green Development Standard strategy. The guidelines have several requirements and recommendations including applying visual markers, such as white dots, to glass surfaces up to 12 metres above ground (third floor of the new building) to deter birds from crashing into windows.

“I’m so happy to see that the windows going in on the new building are bird friendly. I noticed the dots right away,” says Tessa Shelvey, Registered Nurse in West Park’s tuberculosis unit and avid bird watcher. “Millions of birds die every spring and fall from hitting glass windows. It’s a real tragedy.” 

Since birds are unable to perceive clear glass as a solid object and images reflected in glass as reflections, it is estimated that about 25 million birds die each year from window collisions in Canada. The fatalities are higher in urban areas due to the growth of cities, sheer number of mid-rise and high-rise buildings, and the popularity of glass used in architecture. 

The Best Practices for Bird-Friendly Glass guidelines recommend using a combination of strategies to treat at least 85 per cent of exterior glazing (windows) within the 12-metre critical zone for bird collisions. West Park’s new facility will incorporate the following:

  • White dots as visual marks on all windows, glass balcony railings (terrace railings) and glass corners 

  • Mullions, which are the vertical metal trim that form a division between windows or screens, also act as visual markers 

  • Opaque and low reflectance materials such as spandrel glass – the blue, purple and yellow panels on the exterior of the new building – that have been installed between the windows 

  • Opaque awnings, sunshades, exterior screens, and overhangs or balconies that provide shading below to provide visual cues for birds to avoid an area
    Green roofs to become functional ecosystems that provide food and nesting for birds 

Windows and spandrels
The opaque blue, purple and yellow spandrels between windows will help minimize bird collisions

The new building is also taking cues from the 2017 Best Practices Effective Lighting, a companion document to the bird-friendly guidelines. Properly designed lighting not only uses energy efficiently, but it minimizes disruption on wildlife such as migratory birds that can be negatively affected by light at night. Effective lighting strategies include minimizing the amount of lights turned on at night and using fixtures designed so that light is directed where it is needed versus into the sky (up lighting).

Located next to the Humber ravine, West Park hopes to make a positive and lasting impact on local wildlife and their natural habitat. Perhaps one day, West Park can even be a destination for bird watching.  

Shelvey recently spotted turkey vultures flying overhead, a sure sign that spring is coming. 

“Red winged blackbirds and robins are also on their way back after spending the winter in the south,” says Shelvey. “Killdeer will be next. I love hearing their call in the evenings high up in the sky when they return from migration.”

For more information on bird-building collision and how to help, please visit Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) Canada at https://flap.org.