If we were to talk about being one with nature and the environment, the University of Minnesota would have a great case to present. Thanks to construction on a brand new research center that features bird-friendly glass, the work inside that building involves in-depth research into bees and making the world friendlier to them.

According to the school, the new, state-of-the-art Bee and Pollinator Research Lab centralizes and facilitates the important bee research projects. The facility expands and enhances the group’s internationally recognized research and teaching program and provides opportunities for enhanced interdisciplinary and international collaborations.

But while amazing research is going on inside, the glass and glazing of the building is working in several ways. It is energy efficient and it’s also friendly to birds. So occupants inside will be treated to proper comfort while those buzzing around the outside of the building will be able to notice and steer clear of the windows thanks to the smart design by architectural firm Alliiance.

Anna Pravinata, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C,PRINCIPAL at Alliiance had standards to follow but also knew exactly what products and approaches that would work best for all stakeholders.

“The building is required to meet the B3 guidelines; therefore we need to balance between daylighting and energy (heat gain), especially from the vast glass in the southwest corner. High performance low-e is standard practice in our firm. The etched pattern is something we used to deter birds. As part of B3, there is a requirement for big opening like that to be bird-safe. We chose to do etching on the glass. In addition to that, the perforated metal panels in front of the glass in the lobby is meant to be the sunshade; allowing light to penetrate while at the same time managing heat gain and glare from direct afternoon sun.”

The etching on the glass was a product from Walker Textures® and its bird-friendly product line AviProtek®.  Combining the need for energy and bird protection may have looked daunting but in the end, for Pravinata and the rest of the team at Alliiance it was not.

“I think the glass in Bee Lab was probably the simplest I have ever worked on. Each portion of the glass make-up (low-E and etching) was targeted to solve a specific issue, we were trying to be very cost effective in our glass design and use an off-the-shelf kind of system in lieu of custom.”

The bird-friendly glass from Walker has continued to grow since its initial debut in July 2013.  Because the etch design does not block a majority of the natural light, when paired with a high performance low-e (Solarban® 70XL), like Alliiance did on this project, there is no need to compromise on the product. The performance numbers are there to meet the model and in this case it allowed Pravinata to achieve what she envisioned with the glass instead of seeing it changed out.

“A big portion of the glass scope was proposed to be value-engineered during design. But we insisted and advocated of how important it is to look out onto the fields for the labs, for the lobby to be transparent and inviting, for the clerestory to stay and provide daylighting for an otherwise dark hallway, and for the garage and wood shop to have daylight. At the end, I am extremely glad that we were able to keep a lot of glass in the building and found other savings.”

So birds, bees, and those who work with them and around them all have a positive story to tell!

Project Details:

Project: University of Minnesota, Bee and Pollinator Research Lab

Architect: Alliiance, Minneapolis, MN

Glazier: Empirehouse, Mounds View, MN

Etched Glass Manufacturer: Walker Glass, Montreal, QC

Etched Products Used:  AviProtek® Bird Friendly Glazing Pattern 215

Low-E Glass Manufacturer: Vitro (Formerly PPG)

Low-E Glass Used: Solarban® 70XL



About Alliiance:

More than designing spaces, we work with our clients to create places that enrich and elevate daily experience. Since 1970, we have solved real-world demands with design that is inspiring, innovative, responsive, and sustainable. Our projects have received numerous national and regional design awards. Our clients range from major institutions and international corporations to regional community groups and local businesses. They rely on us to provide innovative solutions for academic, aviation, civic, lifestyle, and workplace environments.


About Walker Glass:

Through seven decades, Walker Glass has grown, evolved and constantly adapted to an ever-changing business environment. Walker Glass is the North American market leader in decorative glazing substrates. While many things have changed over the decades, the most important things have remained constant. Adherence to our mission and remaining true to our core values are the trusted foundations of the Walker Glass of yesterday, today and the decades to come.

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