Buildings are usually designed to house people, but a few recent examples provide shelter and protection for the fuzzier fellow citizens of planet Earth.
In the UK, architect Charles Barclay built a custom bat barn that provides easy entry and exit points for bats. Barclay originally discovered a maternity roost of bats during a demolition and had to adapt his project to the tune of six extra weeks and $70,000. Because of the declining bat population, British legislation protects bats and their roosts. Fungal disease and habitat destruction have endangered the bats and modern buildings pose new problems for bats pushed out of rural habitats to urban areas because of development. Bats can become entangled in roof insulation and solar panels increase the temperature of roof spaces, which can disturb the animals. The concern is so great that the Royal Institute of British Architects is offering a course, in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust, on designing bat roosts.
While guidelines for designs that don’t harm birds have been published in the US, a library in China takes the idea one step further. The Liyuan Library by architect Li Xiaodong encourages birds to build nests on its structure. The exterior is clad with more than 400,000 locally sourced sticks of firewood, which Li hopes will attract birds that will contribute mud and droppings to help plant-life grow.
In Buffalo, New York, saving bees is part of a local business person’s vision for redeveloping a waterfront industrial site into a design district. Rick Smith sponsored a contest to design a new home for a massive bee colony that had taken over an old office building. The winning team of architecture students from the University at Buffalo designed a 22 foot tall tower made with steel, glass and cypress. Taking cues from the existing grain elevators on the site and the natural hexagonal shape of honeycombs, the students created a tower they call Elevator B.
Bees, birds and even bats are ecologically important since they prey on pests, disperse seeds, and pollinate plants. And humans, directly and indirectly, keep infringing on their natural habitats; it’s only fair to give a little space back.