Bird deaths leads campus community to question the sustainability of new arts building

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Jess Scheider, a junior drawing and painting major, was walking outside the new Center for Visual Arts building on Oct. 4 when something caught her eye on the pavement. As she approached the object, she realized it was a dead bird. Looking closer, Scheider realized there were actually two birds less than five feet apart from each other. 

“Having mentioned it to a couple professors later that day, they both immediately were like ‘they must have flown into the windows,’” Scheider said.

As an art student, Scheider spends a lot of her time in the new state-of-the-art fine arts building that had its grand opening on Oct. 3. However, it only took one day for Scheider to start questioning the sustainability of the $49 million building project. 

“The last [arts building]didn’t seem like there were any [environmental practices], and it kind of seems like they continued that into this new building,” Scheider said. 

Currently, Idaho law only requires environmental information documents if the proposed project poses any significant effect on the quality of the human environment.

George Thoma, a communications specialist for Campus Operations, says there was no official report or documentation for environmental consequences. However, Thoma explained that the architect, project manager, and construction manager did, in fact, take bird strikes into consideration when designing the building. 

The east and west-facing glazing is angled to reduce the amount of sky or foliage reflected, as compared to a vertical window,” Thoma wrote in an email. “The south-facing glazing has a ceramic frit embedded in it to help reduce bird strikes. The north-facing glazing would be the most susceptible to bird strikes, but our team is not aware of any issues with bird strikes in the time the glazing has been in place, which has been over a year now.” 

For Scheider, though, the bird strike — and bird death — problem has become all too real. After finding the birds, Scheider says she used some tissue to take the birds down to the river for a proper send off.

Scheider explained that she is grateful for the building as an artistic resource, but is extremely disappointed in the seemingly minimal environmental efforts used to achieve it.

In addition to the bird strikes, Scheider expressed her concern for other sustainable solutions needed in other aspects of the building.

“We still have yet to even get recycling bins for the classrooms,” Scheider said. 

In 2018, the Center for Visual Arts building was also being questioned for its sustainability after being dubbed “one of the most energy-intensive buildings,” despite being incorporated into the geothermal energy system utilized across campus.

“For a program that is so socially forward, I would have liked for them to take more of these environmental considerations,” Scheider said. “It’s a new building and it should be setting a new standard for Boise State.” 

In recent years, Boise State has taken pride in leading several sustainable initiatives on campus and within the Boise community. However, Brian Ertz, Boise State environmental ethics professor and public interest attorney, believes that the university could have done more. 

“Things like bird deaths are usually very low on the list of considerations when it comes to design and acceptance of big projects, especially given the magnitude of the project,” Ertz said.

Regardless of local legalities, the university could have chosen to operate under federal environmental laws, like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to Ertz.

“We’re already past that point,” Scheider said. “They’ve fully constructed the building, so now what can we do to make this environmentally friendly?”

Casey Huse, the Center of Visual Arts project architect with Lombard/Conrad Architects, says his team has not received any reports of bird strikes, but if it were to become a bigger issue, there are solutions that could be implemented.

After a building is constructed, it would be either applying a particular kind of film to the windows to change their appearance, or I believe there are some sonic solutions that produce [undetectable]sound, so the birds would avoid flying towards [the building],” Huse said.

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  1. This article, and the situation it describes, underscores our concerns about the proposed $104 million downtown events center/library that would be located across the river from the BSU campus. Bird strikes on one side of the Boise River are likely to occur with equal intensity on the other, and — as this article points out — the easiest time to solve such environmental impacts is in the initial design phase, not after-the-fact, when a building is already completed.

    The proposed downtown library design calls for the eviction of “The Cabin” off of its historic site; conversion of east Julia Davis Park to more developed area as a site for “The Cabin’s” relocation; loss of additional green space and open space within the park; demolition of the existing library building, a potentially re-purposeable 1940s-era hardware company warehouse; and the demolition of the next-door Foothills School so that a new parking deck can be built in its place to service the new events center/library. Where’s the “sustainability” in all of that?

    Last month nearly three-quarters of Boise voters said they wanted more citizen oversight of big projects like libraries and stadiums. Their impacts and costs are just too great. BSU students who feel that sustainability should be taken seriously in Boise are invited to join us by visiting the “Boise Working Together” Web site and Facebook page, as well as the “Vanishing Boise” Facebook page.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!