Covered by a new bird-friendly glass canopy featuring laminated Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass by Vitro Glass, the Tropical Rainforest exhibit at the National Aviary reopened on July 13 following a four-month-long renovation.
The restoration, which began in March and is the first in the popular exhibit’s 66-year history, involved the installation of 19,600-square-feet of Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, featuring AviProtek® bird-friendly Velour acid-etched finish by Walker Glass; the addition of new immersive activities for the 72 birds that live there; and the installation of new lighting and flooring.
An invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by approximately 100 dignitaries and special guests, was held before the exhibit reopened to the public at noon.
Bird-safety experts at the National Aviary consulted with architectural representatives from Vitro Glass to determine the best solution for replacing the original single-strength annealed float glass that was installed during the habitat’s construction in 1952.
“The unique bird-friendly glass selection played a key role in transforming the space, both because it protects birds inside and outside the habitat and because the UV light penetration is so beneficial in supporting plant and animal life,” explained Cheryl Tracy, executive director of the National Aviary.
The custom specification incorporates complete acid-etched coverage on the exterior (#1) surface of an ultra-premium, low-iron glass made by Vitro Architectural Glass, which also is one of the sponsors of the $1.2 million project.
The specialized glass configuration drastically reduces the chances of bird-glass collisions, prevents birds of prey living outside from seeing and attempting to reach potential prey living inside the building and maximizes UV and natural light transmittance to help sustain wildlife and plant life inside.
Richard A. Beuke, president, Vitro Architectural Glass, said the new glass aligns with the National Aviary’s mission to inspire respect for nature through an appreciation for birds. “The unique characteristics of Starphire Ultra-Clear glass greatly improve the aesthetics, performance and bird-friendly aspects of the Tropical Rainforest’s new glass dome,” he said. “It helps create a healthy home for the birds and protects them, all while enhancing the environment.”
Vitro Glass supplied more than 3,100 panes of laminated glass, which was fabricated by Dlubak Specialty Glass Corp., Blairsville, Pennsylvania, and installed by Greenhouse RSI, Greater Cincinnati. Montgomery Smith, Inc., Burlington, Kentucky, experts in greenhouse and conservatory preservation, design and engineering, was the historic conservatory consultant.
Other new features in the Tropical Rainforest include a 15-foot waterfall that spills out to three tiers of ponds and encompasses immersive spaces for the birds to bathe, play and nest. There are also a variety of new tropical plants, including cacao and coffee trees as tools for conservation education; custom perches; and other energy-efficient enhancements.
“As one of the National Aviary’s largest free-flight spaces, the Tropical Rainforest is a visitor favorite, allowing guests to view natural behaviors and interact with many species of birds,” said Tracy. “The revitalized habitat will enhance the beauty of the space, and more importantly, allow us to represent the diversity of a rainforest ecosystem more comprehensively through the varieties of plants, mammals and birds that live there. It will also enable visitors to connect with the important conservation concepts that can enable all of us to work together to protect these disappearing wild habitats.”
The renovation coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Aviary’s official national designation and renaming as the National Aviary.
Introduced in 1990 and manufactured in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass is the clearest, most transparent commercial float glass available today. With visible light transmittance (VLT) of 91 percent in a standard ¼-inch (6 millimeter) thickness, the glass will maximize the color fidelity and translucency of the acid-etched Walker Textures product to make it safer for birds, and to give the Tropical Rainforest exhibit a whiter, opulent, more aesthetically pleasing look.
To learn more about Starphire Ultra-Clear glass, visit www.vitroglazings.com.