Our thanks to Flad Architects, Henry Downing Architects, and the University of Saskatchewan for their generous help in writing this article.

State-of-the-art science with a Gothic twist

When Flad Architects took on the University of Saskatchewan’s Collaborative Science Research Building (CSRB) in 2018, they knew they were in for a challenge. This project was designed to meet the institution’s strict Sustainability Strategy and aim for Green Globes certification, as well as contributing to community life on campus and supporting the needs of multiple science faculties. To meet its goals, the building would have to serve state-of-the-art research labs with enhanced energy needs, include greenhouses for crop research, give sightlines onto campus activities, and merge seamlessly into the university’s traditional Collegiate Gothic aesthetic. Oh, and of course, it would have to be bird-friendly. As if that wasn’t enough, all this was to take place at the heart of the Canadian prairies, in frigid ASHRAE climate zone 7A.

How on Earth was this going to work?

“How do you build a state-of-the-art research building that has the requirements of higher floor to floors, a lot more exhaust needs, maybe even rooftop greenhouses, on a Collegiate Gothic building? That was part of the discussion really early on.”

  • Chuck Mummert, LEED AP BD+C

We sat down with Chitani Ndisale, AIA, LEED AP and Chuck Mummert LEED AP BD+C to discuss how Flad Architects, together with the University of Saskatchewan and Keith Henry, SAA, FRAIC, LEED AP, of Henry Downing Architects, accomplished these ambitious goals.

Sustainable development at the University of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan’s Sustainability Strategy commits the institution to be “The University the World Needs”[1]. Strategies to meet this commitment include a robust framework based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. To achieve these goals, the university is directing its efforts toward long-term solutions such as energy-efficient architecture and learning programs geared toward sustainable development. As a research centre dedicated to eco-friendly agriculture, the CSRB project was a golden opportunity to act on these principles. Chitani Ndisale, the project manager, was enthusiastic about the opportunity. He described the experience to us, saying, “It was a wonderful thing to be able to work on a project where everybody, from the funding stream perspective to the actual campus goals, aligned in wanting a building that was ecologically responsible.”

Why use bird-friendly glass?

Even though the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan have no bird-deterrent building legislation, bird-friendly glass at the University of Saskatchewan was non-negotiable. Faculty and staff had enough of seeing birds collide against campus windows. Furthermore, ecological health was at the heart of the new building’s mission. It only made sense to take measures to protect wild bird species.

“As the building we were constructing was to focus primarily on research aimed to life and natural sciences, we wanted to provide a facility that would not only support the work they do, but the principles that their research is dedicated to which involves the conservation, preservation and prevention of harm to the natural environment and those living in it.”

  • Dr. Christy Morrissey, Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, specializing in the study of wild bird population health

Flad Architects tackled the problem head-on by selecting bird-friendly glass for the building’s windows. After extensive research, they chose AviProtek® E design 217, which features a 2” x 2” pattern of 5mm acid-etched dots on the first surface. Several factors led to this choice. First, the pattern itself: the acid-etched markers are placed close enough to satisfy the CSA A460:19 Standard for bird-friendly building. This standard is widely accepted as the best model for bird-deterrent glass. It requires that visual markers be spaced no more than 50mm (2”) apart either vertically or horizontally, so small bird species won’t try to fly between them.

Visual markers must be placed on the first surface of the glass. This is because the first surface will be visible to birds in most weather and lighting conditions, whereas markers on inner surfaces are often hidden by reflections or glare. These principles have been tested on many buildings as well as in field studies and have proven themselves to be the best method for effective bird strike deterrence. Let’s see how well they performed at the University of Saskatchewan.

Bird collisions: risks and results

Bird-friendly glass at the University of Saskatchewan

Since the CSRB’s construction, graduate students have studied bird-to-glass collisions in Saskatoon and on the University of Saskatchewan campus. A 2021 MSEM (Master of Sustainable Environmental Management) thesis analyzed collision rates in Saskatoon based on data gathered from FLAP Canada’s Global Bird Collision Mapper (GBCM) website[2].

Candidate Abbey Duinker found that the city’s downtown core represented fully one-fifth of recorded bird strikes in Saskatoon. The University of Saskatchewan campus saw some of the very highest collision rates within the same neighbourhood.

An earlier thesis from MSEM candidate Anang Grace Yashim recorded bird strikes against four different campus buildings, including the CSRB[3]. The study was conducted over three months during the spring/summer migration and breeding seasons when wild bird activity was at its peak.

Like Ms. Duinker, Anang Grace Yashim found that the campus windows posed a serious threat to local bird life. The Agriculture and Bioresources Building alone accounted for nine bird collisions over the three months of observation. Interestingly, none of these collisions occurred at the acid-etched portions of the façade, nor around the acid-etched glass adjacent to the building’s rooftop garden. There were zero collisions reported against the CSRB.

What should we conclude from these studies? Even in a proven high-risk area such as the University of Saskatchewan campus, bird strikes are preventable. Effective bird-friendly acid-etched glass at USask made the difference between life and death for bird populations.

High latitude, high performance

In addition to preventing bird strikes, the CSRB had to follow the University of Saskatchewan’s 2021-2030 Sustainability Strategy, which is modelled on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The team at Flad Architects was also aiming for Green Globes certification. This might not seem too difficult at first, but let’s not forget that they were designing a building to serve the specialized energy requirements of multiple science labs. Oh, and of course there was the question of heating a 72,118 ft² complex through Saskatoon’s sub-zero winters. Reaching the project’s energy efficiency targets would be a challenge.

The team at Flad Architects could have made their lives easier by reducing window space. However, that would have meant compromising on the project’s aesthetic and future users’ visual comfort, and the team wasn’t willing to make those concessions. Ultimately, they found their solution in a Solarban® 70 low-emissivity coating from Vitro Architectural Glass. They were able to pair this treatment with bird-friendly glass from the AviProtek® E series, which combines bird-deterrent markers on surface one with a Solarban® low-e coating on surface two. At the CSRB, the resulting sealed units delivered an SHGC value of 0.27 and U-value of 0.28 while maintaining 64% visible light transmittance. With this combination, Flad Architects was able to meet their project performance goals without sacrificing views or aesthetics.

Project manager Chitani Ndisale explained, “From the design perspective, having higher percentages of glazed area obviously made the building a lot more attractive. But there was a lot of back and forth, a lot of integration. We worked with our engineering partners to come up with that perfect balance of opaque surfaces vs. transparent surfaces. The glass product allowed us to have the maximum allowable percentage of glazed areas because it had a higher performance level.”

The work that Chitani and his colleagues put into integration paid off. The project earned 2 Green Globes certification, as well as Honourable Mention for Integrated Design in the 2019 Premier’s Awards of Excellence. Bird-friendly acid-etched glass helped the architects and USask reach their sustainability goals.

certification: Two Green Globes
recognition: Design Council of Saskatchewan, Premier’s Awards of Excellence in Design, Honourable Mention – Integrated Design

Building for the future

In its 2021-2030 Sustainability Strategy, the University of Saskatchewan recognizes that, “Sustainability isn’t merely another problem to be tackled or solved. Rather, it needs to pervade all decisions within our institution.”[4] What could exemplify that approach more thoroughly than the university’s Collaborative Science Research Building? As a science complex that includes drought-resistant crop research and the protection of wild species, the building is dedicated to sustainable values. Flad Architects incorporated those values into the project’s design with bird-friendly acid-etched glass and energy-efficient materials, all while respecting the University of Saskatchewan’s traditional aesthetic.


About Flad Architects

Flad Architects is a national planning and design firm committed to creating environments that enhance human potential. In partnership with leading research organizations, universities, healthcare institutions, and science-based companies, Flad designs innovative facilities, with a standout dedication to detail. These advanced spaces enable the firm’s clients to make revolutionary discoveries that have a profound impact on society.

Learn more at flad.com

About Henry Downing Architects

Henry Downing Architects is a Saskatoon based architectural practice with a diverse portfolio of complex project types through the firm’s 60-year history. We work closely with our clients and partners to integrate the project context and design vision into a holistic solution.

Learn more at henrydowning.ca

About the University of Saskatchewan

USask is one of the top research-intensive, medical doctoral universities in Canada, and is home to world-leading research in areas of global importance, such as water and food security and infectious diseases.

Guided by our University Plan: The University the World Needs, we work together across disciplines and with our communities to find creative solutions to the most pressing global challenges. Our graduates, recognized for their strong work ethic, resourceful nature and determination, are leading change here at home and around the world.

Learn more at usask.ca


  1. University of Saskatchewan Office of Sustainability, Critical Patch to Sustainability: University of Saskatchewan Sustainability Strategy (2021-2030). https://sustainability.usask.ca/documents/usask-sustainability-strategy-2021-2030.pdf
  2. Duinker, Abbey. “Bird-Building Collision Assessment and Mitigation Strategies in the City of Saskatoon”. MSEM. diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2021.
  3. Grace Yashim, Anang. “Risk and Mitigation Strategies for Bird-building Collisions on the University of Saskatchewan Campus”. MSEM. diss. University of Saskatchewan, 2019.
  4. University of Saskatchewan Office of Sustainability, Critical Patch to Sustainability: University of Saskatchewan Sustainability Strategy (2021-2030). https://sustainability.usask.ca/documents/usask-sustainability-strategy-2021-2030.pdf

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