In October 2020 the National Aviary in Pittsburgh unveiled its new bird friendly Garden Room, with glass walls on three sides overlooking the historic Allegheny Commons. The new venue provides a space for public programming, meetings and community events. It also serves as a site to educate visitors about ecological concerns relating to the Aviary’s mission, including bird conservation. With these perspectives in mind, architects Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel (PWWG) selected AviProtek® bird friendly glass and Solarban® Acuity™ low-e coated glass.
PWWG principal Anthony Pitassi, AIA, LEED® AP, observed, “This project is unique in requirements to be environmentally friendly and provide a striking visual complement to both the National Aviary and the surrounding Allegheny Commons historic park. The detailing of the curtain wall is critical — and truly innovative — maximizing energy efficiency and bird safety, with industry-leading clarity, and the ability to open up for seamless physical and visual flow into the historic Rose Garden and Allegheny Commons park.”
The new Garden Room offers the comfort of an indoor venue, with the airiness of being outside. According to Sam Moore, Director of Guest Operations, “It’s a stunning space. It’s well-lit, it’s bright, it’s airy, it’s soaring. This is a space that our team is looking forward to making full use of once we emerge from the pandemic, and it’s a space that clients are really, really excited about.”
A bird friendly glass façade with AviProtek®
As an institution devoted to birds, avian conservation is at the very heart of the National Aviary’s mission. It was imperative that the new structure be bird safe. This is a building faced with a broad expanse of glass, located at the heart of a park renowned for its mature trees. It could have been a disaster zone for bird strikes. To make the façade safe for birds, the architectural team, together with bird experts at the National Aviary, chose bird friendly AviProtek® glass with a pattern of fine horizontal lines. The pattern was etched onto the first surface of the glass, as with all AviProtek® products, so it wouldn’t be obscured by reflections from nearby trees.
The Aviary’s Director of Buildings and Grounds, Conor McGarvey, has monitored the site carefully for strikes since its construction. He watches for signs of collision. With decades of experience in facility operations, he is very aware of the potential risk that a glass building in the middle of a park could present to birds. So far, he hasn’t seen evidence of a single collision.
Conor McGarvey’s monitoring is just one example of the care that went into this project. In Sam Moore’s words, the fact that they’ve seen zero collisions is “a testament to the treatment of the glass, and to the intentionality with which that space was built.”
High traffic, high performance
The architectural team had additional considerations for The Garden Room’s windows: performance and functionality.
With glass walls and an eye toward LEED® certification, energy efficiency was an important part of material selection. This was especially true for the glazing. The architects chose insulated glass units using Acuity™ low-iron glass, with Solarban® 72 low-e coating from Vitro on surface 3. The resulting units have an exemplary SHGC value of 0.36, which is 50% lower than uncoated clear glass. Conor McGarvey explained, “For years, people thought glass was not energy-efficient. But for this application we have here at the Aviary, we’re benchmarking well as it relates to LEED®.”
The Garden Room has to look its best even when exposed to rain, dust, fingerprints, and pollen from nearby trees. Does the first surface etching cause any trouble with care and cleaning? Not at all. Conor McGarvey observed that, if anything, it’s easier to care for than untreated glass because fingerprints are less obvious. When a building hosts young kids on field trips, this is a real benefit!
The National Aviary’s staff is enthusiastic about the new Garden Room, and with good reason. This stylish venue strikes an exemplary balance between form, function and the Aviary’s values. Bird friendly glass at The Garden Room shows that high-performance materials like AviProtek® and Solarban® Acuity™ glass can be a key part of a high-performance building envelope.
About the National Aviary
The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds. Located in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises more than 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through habitats create an experience unlike any other – an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world.
For more information on the National Aviary, please visit www.aviary.org.
About Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel
PWWG is one of the 12 largest architecture firms in Pittsburgh, specializing in design for higher education, multi-family housing, performing arts, and institutional and commercial clients.
Founded in Pittsburgh, PWWG is celebrating 46 years as an architecture firm known for design excellence, ability to translate clients’ ideas into cost-effective, buildable projects, construction management acumen, and creating strong client relationships. Current and recent projects include the new Kopchick Hall Science Building at IUP, Commonwealth Apartments in downtown Pittsburgh, 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis, and new market-rate and affordable housing in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. PWWG offers comprehensive planning, programming, architectural and interior design, project management and construction administration services to clients in the eastern half of the US.
More information can be found at the firm’s web site: www.pwwgarch.com.
About Vitro Glass
Vitro Architectural Glass, part of Vitro, S.A.B. de C.V. (BMV:VITROA), the largest company of its kind in the Americas, manufactures a range of industry-leading, energy-efficient products such as Solarban®, Sungate® and Starphire Ultra-Clear® glasses at U.S. plants in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Fresno, California; Salem, Oregon; and Wichita Falls, Texas. Committed to sustainable manufacturing processes and products, the company also operates one of the world’s largest glass research and development facilities in Pittsburgh and four residential glass fabrication plants in Canada. Upholding the values of “Together, We See Further” across the architectural, automotive and containers markets, Vitro strives to realize the power of partnership to ensure that projects meet or exceed ever-evolving sustainability expectations as well as glass requirements.
For more information, please visit www.VitroGlassHub.com.