PPG Inspirescapes
May 1, 2018 9:30:00 AM

Updating a Beloved Icon


Why the Tropical Rainforest Needed New Wings

The Victoria Crowned Pigeons, Malayan Great Argus pheasant, beloved macaws and dozens of other exotic birds that inhabit the National Aviary’s Tropical Rainforest Exhibit have captivated families for generations.

Since opening in 1952, the Tropical Rainforest exhibit has been one of the signature attractions at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Originally built as a conservatory, the Aviary became the only free-flight room for birds in the United States and is currently home to 75 exotic birds.

However, it recently started showing signs of age—the original single-strength annealed float glass that forms the sides and roof of the habitat was deteriorating; the glazing compounds that hold the glass in place have become loose and chalky, damaging their ability to adhere the glass to its supporting framework and causing air and water leaks.

Although no visitors have been injured, and no birds have been lost, it was time for a makeover—the first face-lift in the history of the exhibit. The cornerstone of this renovation is the replacement of more than 3,100 panes—19,600 square-feet—of glass.

But not just any glass.

“As you can imagine, bird-friendly glass is important to us,” said Cheryl Tracy, the Aviary’s executive director.

The Aviary consulted with the American Bird Conservatory and other experts as it considered options that would not only allow enough ultraviolet (UV) rays to penetrate but also prevent birds from colliding with the glass. Choosing the right glass and the right company was critical.

Given the Pittsburgh region’s history and expertise in glass, the Aviary selected Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass) to supply the glass for this landmark project. The unique glass configuration—Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, featuring AviProtek® bird-friendly Velour acid-etched finish by Walker Glass—is designed to prevent collisions by birds, both inside and outside the habitat, while maximizing the transmittance of UV and natural light to help sustain bird and plant life inside. In addition, the acid-etching prevents outdoor birds of prey, such as hawks, peregrines, eagles and owls, from seeing or attempting to reach the birds inside the habitat.

Other new features include construction of a 15-foot waterfall that spills out to three tiers of ponds and encompasses immersive spaces for birds to bathe, play and nest; installation of a variety of new tropical plants; new lighting and flooring; and other energy-efficient enhancements. New bird species and educational programming will be introduced in the space at the completion of the project. 

“The new exhibit will not only enhance the National Aviary’s status as a world-class attraction, but also further its mission to protect, care for and educate visitors about the vital role birds play in the life of the planet,” said Richard A. Beuke, president, Vitro Architectural Glass.

Renovation of the Tropical Rainforest will continue through spring and early summer, with an anticipated opening in July 2018. Visitors will be able to get sneak peeks of construction to witness the restoration.

As for the Tropical Rainforest’s “residents,” they’re temporarily living in other sections of the Aviary, eagerly awaiting flight clearance to their redecorated digs.

Learn more & request samples of our bird-friendly glass offerings.