Recently we wrote about the glass that was used in the Education center construction at the Oregon Zoo. The architect on that project was Heather DeGrella of Opsis Architecture. We caught up with Heather to get more insight on the project.

Q:  The Oregon Zoo Education Center is a beautiful structure.  Going in, what were your goals glass wise (obviously including the bird protection) on this project and do you feel you achieved them?


Connection to the outdoors


Energy efficiency


Education (visible pattern)

Vertical application only (no skylights)

Yes, we achieved all of the goals.


Q: Had you previously ever worked with bird friendly like this before and if so how did it compare to the others, which you’ve been involved?

A: Not to this degree. We have used ceramic fritted and acid-etched glazing before, but the primary goal of those projects were typically to create identity for the project and to help mitigate glare and solar-gain. Another component of bird-friendly is minimizing artificial lighting at night (reducing “night sky pollution”), which we have done on a number of projects.

Q: Overall, what was your favorite part about this project?

A: Honestly the bird-friendly design! I have learned so much about how birds see and fly, and the misconceptions that the tall skyscrapers are the biggest problem. The first several stories of a building are the most dangerous for birds, especially if there is landscape that reflects off the glass making it appear that there is more habitat beyond. Glazing adjacent to green roofs (attracts birds) or at building corners (birds perceive the condition as if there were nothing there) are a very high risk zone. The night sky pollution is a big problem, as birds (and bugs too) navigate by the light of the moon. Bright lights at night can attract both the birds and the bugs – and sometimes the birds following the bugs as a food source – and ultimately they get disoriented and lost. This is especially a problem during migratory seasons.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the glass design?

A: We looked at a lot of different options of patterns for the Education Center, including patterns that would have been invisible to the human eye and organic natural patterns. Ultimately, it was agreed that a visible pattern would support the Center’s mission of education. The pattern that was chosen has a variation in line widths and spacing, which provides variation ad rhythm without being too busy.  When you are in the space, the pattern gives a sense of enclosure that still allows a connection to the outdoors, almost like hiding in tall grass or in a bamboo grove. Others have mentioned it feels like looking out at rain coming down.

The LEED innovation credit we are pursuing for bird-friendly design would have allowed a small portion of the glass to be clear, and originally a few of the windows in the administrative spaces and the glazing in the in the overhead garage doors at the classrooms had clear glazing specified. However, the occupants in those spaces felt strongly that birds in their view deserved an equally bird-friendly façade and so the clear glazing was replaced with the bird-friendly pattern. A lessons learned from this came from replacing the glazing in the overhead garage doors. The bird-friendly glazing was heavier than the standard used for the doors, and as a result the springs had to be upgraded to a heavier duty type.

Q: The portfolio of Opsis Architecture is so diverse and impressive, is it ever a challenge as a designer to go from one range of building (health and wellness center) to another (professional or educational like at Oregon Zoo?)

A: Thank you! Regardless of the building type, our design method is focused on a collaborative design process that includes the owner, the occupants, and the design team. We look for community and education oriented projects, with clients whose missions align with our values. Supporting the occupants’ well-being, productivity, and happiness is integral to how we design, as are sustainable practices that nurture the qualities of place and planet.

I’d like to share our Sustainability Action Plan with you, which delves more deeply into our efforts. (link to Opsis)

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