Architect guide to bird proof building designs

Peter McCarthy, Director Pest IT Pty Ltd

Suggestions to consider when designing a new building or refurbishment

Architects and building designers need to consider how ‘friendly’ their new design or construction is to locally found native and exotic pest birds. A truly bird-proof building would have no ledges or parapets, sheer walls with a flush entrance and windows; and roof height above the clouds where the oxygen content is totally insufficient to sustain a bird’s needs. Therefore it is safe to say that a completely bird proof building a virtual impossibility. However, the design of a new building or a major renovation of an existing building can be such that it does reduce the amenability to pest birds.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a “bird proof” building. However, I encourage architects to consider a variety of options when designing new buildings or implementing a design for a refurbishment. While this may result in less work in the future for bird management professionals, there are simple techniques or strategies to consider. Often a strategy such as this may impact on the building design budget, however initial costs may substantially reduce issues during building hand-over as well as the burden of maintenance, coating damage, OH&S implications and cleaning costs in the future. Slip and fall hazards, food safety and product contamination (depending on facility use) also may need to be considered.

One area of concern with new projects is the provision of little or no scope for pest bird resistance or a bird management strategy. In most cases, a bird issue during or post construction of the project is predictable. Pest birds cause untold millions of dollars in damage to buildings and company reputations in Australia each year. They also contribute the following problems:

  • Major health risks to all personnel on-site
  • Damage to the structure and inventory
  • Reduced life of paintwork and protective coatings
  • Cost of clean-up and on-going maintenance to building owners
  • Slip and fall hazard with fresh droppings on surfaces
  • Noise, mess and smell
  • Physical damage to soft furnishings, facades, air conditioners and ledges
  • Potential work stoppages and staff absenteeism
  • Negative company image and damage to company goodwill
  • Unsightly pest birds on a new site, creating problems before building hand-over

Architects often create a very desirable home for pest birds in their endeavours to seek the unique, perfect and most desirable modern building design for their client. Aesthetic design parameters mean that fixtures in the built environment often include ledges, parapets, beams, corbels, archways, louvers, gutters and a host of other architectural surfaces which are attractive to birds. More recently buildings designed with low environmental impacts are growing in popularity in both the domestic and commercial market. Although not advocating a return to the modernist era of architecture, certainly consideration of the accessibility and attractiveness of a commercial construction to birds would be advised, and could be undertaken simultaneously to that of ecological sustainability.

Solar passive and modern building design can actually encourage pest birds as birds will be attracted to wide ledges, horizontal sun shades, vertical aluminium louvers and fins, solar panels, water treatment systems, intricate roof designs and the like. Renovations of old buildings often involve the installation of modern and colourful aluminium cladding, incorporating expansion joins. Other trends involve the use of fibreglass ledges, parapets and corbels that are filled with Styrofoam. Many buildings use stones and pebbles for drainage, cooling or aesthetics. Most of these modern developments fall foul of pigeon populations, marauding and chewing cockatoos or mischievous crows and ravens which can cause significant damage and costly rectification.

Given that an entirely bird-proof building is impossible to design then the following considerations are advised:

  1. Consider designs that reduce the buildings attractiveness to pest birds; and
  2. Include bird management strategy and budget in the development of new buildings or constructions prior to handover.

Deterring birds from a new building before they become established is a far easier proposition than eliminating an established flock on a completed or existing structure. Given that the cost of a domestic or commercial building runs into the hundreds of thousands to many millions of dollars respectively, a simple modification to the design can mean a substantial difference in the eventual maintenance costs and post construction alterations. Completing a bird management strategy may also be more cost effective during construction due to the availability of scaffolding, access equipment or simply that the building is not in use.

Following some of the guidelines below may prove a valuable and cost-saving option:

  • Eliminating ledges or designing ledges and parapets that have 450 angles (and no flat surfaces) stopping birds from gaining any comfort on the surface;
  • Using louvers that have fine mesh behind the main louver and enclosing the sides as well;
  • Housing air-conditioning within enclosed structures that allows sufficient air exchange, but no suitable nesting opportunity or access;
  • High-speed roller doors or strip doors that allow forklift access but stop or limit access to birds;
  • Enclose or clad all internal and awning roof (main warehouse, loading/receiving docks, walls, etc) areas so no beams are exposed and available to pest birds; and
  • Enclosed gutters (from domestic gutters to commercial box gutters) with PVC or metal mesh.
  • Enclose or cover all soft architectural finishes (expansion joins, mastic, moisture membranes, etc) in a “cockatoo-proof” material such as steel or aluminium.
  • If considering timber such as western red cedar (cladding or window frames) in heavily treed areas, consider a more durable timber or alternative material.

Finally, where a design leaves a building susceptible to pest birds, include a bird management strategy that is seamlessly incorporated into the preferred design. There are numerous consultants such as the Pest IT team with sufficient experience and knowledge of building design and bird management related issues to assist in this task. Most importantly there needs to be a design phase to ensure that a new building is not infested with birds or the noise, mess, smell and damage associated with bird faeces during the building handover stage.

See for a comprehensive range of bird control products, strategies and deterrents. For more information, please call 1300 665 657 for details.

Every design, new construction, refurbishment and restoration project is different. No one strategy will ensure that your building remains “bird free”. Treat every project as a customised approach to reducing the attractive and conducive elements to birds nesting, roosting and feeding. Calling on a bird management professional may assist in minor changes to improve your chances of bird management and eliminating the many thousands of dollars in potential maintenance, complaints and liability.

We are happy to assist with a specific design strategy or offer our advice before finalising your design. In many cases, we can offer a working budget to aesthetically management birds prior to hand-over.


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Pest IT Pty Ltd,
Unit 5/74 – 76 Oak Road Kirrawee NSW 2232 AUSTRALIA

Phone: 1300 665 657
Fax: 1300 665 657
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Download ‘Architect guide to bird proof building designs’ as pdf.

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