29 July 2011

UNO Plans Depict Potentially Hazardous Building

Plans for a new campus building show a design which may be hazardous to migratory birds.

A "Community Engagement Center" is to be built autumn 2011 and finished in spring 2012 on the north side of the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The building is shown in a rendering as having a north facade which is mostly glass. Other areas of glass also appear to be planned as exterior walls.

"Use of glass and light will add to the dynamic environment within, and will convey in a physical sense the university’s commitment to be open and accessible." — UNOmaha planning document

This document also refers to glass-enclosed conference rooms.

Rendering of the Community Engagement Center. Courtesy image.

If the north wall has an "open view" as shown, the landscaping typically planted on campus will be reflected in the glass, and possibly create the false impression of vegetation which are known to be a consistent danger to birds.

The rendering would seem to indicate that the building will not be bird-friendly.

A similar glass facade at the adjacent Criss Library is already known to be a hazard, as dead birds have been found next to the lower-level windows of the Tritsch Garden on the north side.

Dead birds have also been found on the south side of the recently remodeled Health Education and Physical Recreation building on the UNO campus. This facade is across the street from Elmwood Park, which worsens the danger. Birds leaving the green spaces of the park see trees reflected in the expanse of glass, and fly into the windows.

The extensive use of glass was used to provide exercisers a "pretty view" of the park land. This is causing unnecessary bird deaths.

Location of the Community Engagement Center, which also shows landscape features. Courtesy image.

There is something disingenuous about having a building likely hazardous for birds which is projected as being "engaging to the community" or housing the "Building Bright Futures Initiative" and even an office for "Omaha By Design."

One section of the planning document refers to the building wanting to adhere to LEED program which "encompasses a holistic approach to sustainable design."

There is no information to be found on the web that would indicate any effort was made to make the structure "engaging" (i.e., safe) for birds, which are also part of the campus community. The landscaping on campus, nearby Elmwood park and golf course, as well as the arboreal setting of Fairacres all contribute to this lively situation.

UNO buildings are only making the environment more of a hazard. There are obvious and well-proven measures which could readily make the structure bird-friendly. A single bird death will instantly indicate that a holistic design was not used.