Lake County considers bird-friendly guidelines for new buildings
Construction continues on the $112 million Lake County courthouse in Waukegan, so it's too late to change the building's design to protect birds.
However, Lake County Board member Paul Frank said there are actions, such as window treatments, that can be incorporated after the fact to reduce hazards. Though not specifically identified as such, county officials said 13 bird protection standards, such as lighting controls, were met as part of the general building plan.
Whatever can be done will help, said Frank, who would like to see a voluntary list of bird-friendly features incorporated into the building code for future projects. Bird-friendly design is not addressed in Lake County's adopted building codes, county officials said.
"Bird-friendly design is one of those things that doesn't have to be expensive or difficult to achieve," Frank said. "We're hoping to craft a simple model ordinance or menu of design elements that would make a building bird-friendly."
The county board's planning, building and zoning committee considered the matter Wednesday and informally authorized 12 hours of staff time for research into what would be nonbinding recommendations, according to Tom Weber, the committee chairman.
"I didn't have any issue with it. I thought it was a good idea," Weber said.
Since being elected in November, Frank said he has focused on improving county sustainability policies.
Frank said bird-friendly design is essential because of the heavy traffic of migratory birds near the lake. The structure of the eight-story court tower was completed in April and the project is expected to be finished in summer 2018.
Before being elected to the county board, Frank served six years on the Highland Park City Council. The city created a pamphlet with suggestions to minimize reflections and create visual signals, such as patterns in glass, glazing, and turning off unnecessary lights that can disorient migrating birds.
The pamphlet says birds are an indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem but face challenges, and more than a third of species are in decline because of human activity.
Collisions with glass are a hazard to millions of birds that migrate through the area in spring and fall, as well as resident birds, according to the publication.
Highland Park's building code also requires contractors to the greatest extent practical to incorporate bird-friendly materials and design features into new buildings to be used primarily by the city, as recommended in guidelines used in Chicago, Toronto and New York City.