Bird-friendly design proposal flies through first hearing

By Bob Seidenberg

Developers will be required for the first time to include bird friendly strategies in their designs, according to a proposal introduced at the Evanston City Council meeting on Aug. 8.

The goals of the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) include implementing building codes that reduce threats to vulnerable wildlife species, particularly migratory and local birds, Johanna Nyden, the city’s Director of Community Development pointed out in a  memo.

“The Smithsonian estimates that up to 1 billion birds die in the United States each year from collisions with buildings,” Nyden reported.

“In 2019, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology identified Chicago as top of the list of U.S. cities that pose the greatest potential danger to migrating birds due to its geography and light pollution. The City of Evanston shares those features and is uniquely positioned in the heart of North America’s most trafficked aerial corridors, posing a serious threat to the passage of migrant birds. Migratory birds are a critical part of a healthy environment and their protection has local and global importance.”

Staff is proposing the inclusion of bird friendly design strategies, adding a new chapter, “Bird Friendly Building Design” to the city’s building regulations.

The provisions would apply to new building construction as well as alterations to a building, requiring practices to reduce known “bird hazards.”

Those practices include the use of bird-friendly materials – especially glass, exterior and interior lighting provisions, and consideration of site planning and landscape design to reduce potentially hazardous situations, Nyden said.

Meanwhile, Bird-Friendly Evanston, a group of residents working to make buildings in Evanston safer for birds, has revised a guidebook developed by the city of Chicago for use in the program.

Under the proposal, members of that group will work with the city of Evanston’s Building & Inspection Services Division on projects.

Addressing the Council’s Administration & Public Works Committee before the Council meeting, Libby Hill, a member of Bird-friendly Evanston, told Council members that she has been working with developers on the issue since 2014. “And many of them have agreed to go ahead with remediations or changes to their plans,” she said. However, “without an ordinance we can’t enforce that.

“We’re not even holding it against developers,” she added. “Costs jump, compromises happen, changes happen. and we have no way of tracking what went through.”

Council members passed the proposal for introduction under their consent agenda, which does not entail an individual vote.

A final vote on the issue is expected at the Council’s next regular meeting, Sept. 12.

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