Creating Bird-Safe Beauty with Glass

Vibrantz's digital inks reduce the deadly effect of glass on birds through our in-house technology which delivers aesthetically pleasing and life-saving solutions.

Birds and glass don’t mix.

Every year, almost a billion migrating birds die from collisions with windows and glass facades, an environmental, safety, and humanitarian issue. Combined with the ever-increasing loss of habitat, the impact is immense.

Three characteristics of glass make it especially dangerous to birds. 

Reflection – The glass reflects familiar habitats, especially during daylight hours, leading to collision.

Transparency—This is also largely a daytime problem. Birds try to fly through the glass to get to whatever is beyond that seems desirable, such as plants, a place to perch, etc.

Beacon effect—Illuminated buildings are particularly hazardous to nocturnally active birds, especially under rainy or hazy conditions. Birds drop to lower altitudes to get their bearings, and the lights from the buildings attract them, with predictably disastrous results.

These dangers are dramatically exacerbated during migration periods when large flocks migrate through urban areas. While most of us envision birds soaring above us and crashing into higher floors, the deadliest areas of buildings are the first three to four floors, as the birds leave the trees to continue their paths south or north. Therefore, these floors are the most critical for treatment, so a whole 40-story building doesn’t have to be clad, except for aesthetic purposes.

It became clear over the years that a humane, science-based deterrent had to be found.

Saving Birds with Printed Glass

The answer – ceramic printing.

The American Bird Conservancy has researched and developed guidelines to protect birds with designs on glass that have been scientifically proven to be visual deterrents. Bird-safe glass contains a pattern where horizontal elements, such as dots, lines, silhouettes, etc. that are no more than two inches apart are paired with vertical elements no more than four inches apart. These are visually picked up by birds in flight, averting crashes. Printing ink on glass is achieved either through screen printing or digital printing – interior and exterior or exterior only. Hundreds of glass processors around the world are equipped with our technology and the necessary tools in order to provide architects with the full solution, in order to achieve the required performance and of course, the right aesthetics:

Screen Printing 

Screen printing is the ideal solution when creating traditional and repetitive patterns, ideal for a bird-safe environment. Ferro provides the glass processors with two solutions: First one being the specially developed Side 1 inks, which are intended to be applied on the exterior side of glass and designed in a way that would allow the ink to resist harsh conditions of the outdoors. The second solution is UV print. Unlike humans, birds have a fourth cone in their eyes, which allows them to see UV. Therefore, designs can be applied using UV semi-transparent ink, more visible to birds but less to people. UV inks are applied with three or five-layer applications. A three-layer coating reduces UV reflectance by 40%, with a 55% improvement using the five-layer process. 

Digital Printing

Digital printing on glass delivers endless design possibilities while fully protecting the birds. Similar to inkjet printers, the glass is placed into the machine, and jets apply the ink. It’s a fast, accurate, and cost-effective solution, especially for graphics that contain more complex design, more colors and a nonrepetitive print throughout the panels. Research shows that birds perceive colors, which means patterns that are colorful and random will fairly decrease the amount of collisions. Those inks can be applied on the inner sides of the glass (Side 2), nevertheless, Side 1 print remains the most functional solution. Fortunately, Side 1 inks are also available in the digital world, allowing for complex designs to be printed on the outside surface. Just as a screen-printed ink, this high-performance solution reduces the glare and reflection on the glass, creating a much safer barrier for the birds. The design possibilities are endless and are easily adaptable to the required standards.

A prime example of the efficacy and beauty of digitally printed design on glass is Columbia College in Chicago, located on the Miracle Mile, the Historic Michigan Boulevard Chicago Landmark District. The design of the new façade had to meet the approval of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks while being bird safe. Using a blend of creativity and technology, they successfully recreated the image of the original terra cotta façade using a dot-matrix pattern with “dots” that are actually small graphics of a bird combined with printed dots on the outside following the two x four rule of the American Bird Conservancy. The result is a staggering 80% reduction in bird collisions.

 bird safe

Your Partners in Creative Design and Bird Safety

Vibrantz helps you create beautiful designs that promote bird safety. Vibrantz's digital glass printing inks and screen printing solutions are ideal for use both on the interior and the exterior surface facades of buildings located in even the most punishing of climates, opening the door to unlimited possibilities while delivering complete durability and functionality. Any building façade design can be printed on glass, with extreme accuracy, in an unprecedented range and combination of colors. Our solutions allow the exact reproduction of designs on glass, resulting in dynamic, beautiful graphics on the inside with bird-safe patterns on the outside.

digital printing on glass

We’re here to support you

Vibrantz offers architects the guidance they need to create a building façade design that’s both highly attractive as well as meets functional requirements. Their architectural team has advised on bird-safe projects worldwide, providing support, ideas, and practical solutions for architects who are rehabilitating old buildings or designing for new construction. Furthermore, in cooperation with the American Bird Conservancy, Vibrantz offers a complete catalog of bird-safe patterns for general use.

Want to know more about our bird-safe solutions?  Click here