Glass specification for zoos and animal parks
A guide to specifying glazing for glass animal enclosures that enhance the viewing experience and ensures the safety and well-being of visitors and the animals
The glass specification used for residential and commercial buildings is very different from the glass specification for large glass animal enclosures. Careful consideration needs to be given to the glass specification to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the animals that inhabit the enclosure. Architects also need to think about the safety of the zookeepers, staff, and visitors that come to the zoo or animal park.
The type of animal and location are just a few factors that architects need to take into consideration when specifying the types of coatings to be applied to the glass, the glass thickness, and whether laminated glass is required. Choosing the right glazing specification is imperative as this will greatly affect the safety of both the animals and the staff and visitors, as well as improving the aesthetics of the enclosure and providing clearer views of the animals.
Glass for zoos and animal parks
Glass is very versatile and is used within the construction industry for many applications throughout various types of residential and commercial buildings, including public areas. However, glass isn’t created equally so each project needs to be thought about carefully to ensure the correct glazing specification is chosen. The safety and aesthetic concerns for glass in zoos are considered at the early stage of the manufacturing process by the glass manufacturers.
Laminated glass is ideal for animal enclosures in zoos and animal parks as it holds together when shattered. This safety glass consists of two or more sheets of glass sandwiched together with a PVB (polyvinyl butyral) interlayer. This interlayer holds the glass sheets together if they should break. Because laminated glass is a safety glass, the glass breaks into a ‘spider web’ pattern of small glass pieces, without any sharp glass shards.
The thickness of the glass and the interlayer varies depending on the location of the glass, the strength of the animal in the specific enclosure as well as human visitors on the outside of the glass. Laminated glass (safety glass) is typically specified when there is the potential of human or animal impact onto the glass, or impact from extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes.
Glass specification for the health, safety and wellbeing of animals in zoos
Glass animal enclosures serve as the home for the animal for the duration of their lives. Just like the toys, plants and climbing structures within the enclosures, the materials chosen during the manufacture of the glass are also important to consider. Glass coatings need to be carefully thought about as some coatings could cause ill health or stress for the animals, and if poorly chosen they could break down or become scratched over time.
Animal exhibits are generally designed to optimise the experience of the zoo or park visitors, and while glass is perfect for allowing visitors to see into the enclosures, this type of clear visibility is not always ideal for the animals that the enclosure houses. It’s important to keep in mind the welfare and comfort of the animals, not just the ability to view them in a space as close to their natural habitat as possible. Careful glass selection helps to address the issues surrounding the comfort and privacy of the animals and control sound transmission from the visitors.
There are some animals that do not cope well with eye contact from viewers, as the sense of being watched makes them uncomfortable. This can provoke a change in behaviour patterns such as aggressive behaviour or persistent hiding from the visitors. For animals that are sensitive to eye contact, it’s important that the glazing specification is carefully designed.
Anti-reflective glass for glass animal enclosures
There have been many studies carried out to see whether animals are self-aware enough to recognise the reflection of themselves in the glass. It’s said that most apes, dolphins, killer whales, Asian elephants, and magpies are the only animals that are able to recognise that they are viewing their own reflection rather than another animal.
For animals that are likely to show aggression towards other animals or are known to display alpha male or alpha female tendencies, reducing the reflections on the glass surface is beneficial for the comfort and safety of the animal. Using anti-reflective glass for animal enclosures can help to reduce the stress and discomfort that can arise when an animal sees its reflection at zoos or animal parks. The anti-reflective glass coating can also improve guest’s visibility through the glass which provides clearer views of the animals within the enclosure.
However, animals that are not affected by their reflection or who don’t use vision as their primary sense don’t need any specialist coating applied to the glass to reduce reflection.
Acoustic sound-reducing glass for glass animal enclosures
Laminated glass with an acoustic interlayer helps to reduce the stress caused to the animals by the noises created by visitors. The acoustic sound reduction glass helps to keep animal noises inside the enclosure while keeping the voices and other noise from human visitors on the other side of the glass.
The acoustic interlayer is laminated between glass panes using the normal methods of interlayer lamination. The acoustic interlayer can reduce sound passing through the glass to between 35Db to 49Db depending on the exact glass specification. It’s impossible to completely eliminate sound from passing through the glass or frame, but the reduction of the noise is significant and the remainder of the noise is low enough not to cause disruption.
How to stop birds from flying into glass
Birds flying into glass is a common problem that occurs in residential and commercial architecture as well as zoo enclosures. The main problem is that birds can’t see the glass, they just see the reflection of the trees and the sky in the glass and are attracted to it. Glass isn’t the preferred choice for bird enclosure due to this issue but there are enclosures that sometimes have glass viewing areas or indoor spaces with glass windows. Birds are attracted to trees, plants and the open-air so when they see this in the reflection of the glass, they fly directly into it which can cause injury and fatalities.
To prevent any injury to birds, bird protection glass is specified which makes the glass visible to the birds but keeps the glass transparent for humans. This allows the birds to inhabit the enclosure safely while allowing visitors to have clear views of the birds. This specialist glass coating is applied to the glass are creates a transparent pattern that’s visible to birds.
What are the benefits of low maintenance glass for animal enclosures?
Self-cleaning glass, otherwise known as low maintenance glass, is highly beneficial to reduce the amount of cleaning required by the zookeepers. A great example of this is when a new animal is introduced to an enclosure or a rare species inhabits an enclosure, the self-cleaning glass helps to reduce the amount of disturbance to the animal from the zookeepers entering the enclosure.
The Komodo dragon enclosure at ZSL London Zoo is designed with self-cleaning glass for this exact purpose. The enclosure was named after Sir David Attenborough, after his many years of work to help protect the Komodo dragon, and was designed to limit the disruption to the dragons as part of the European Conservation Breeding Programme at London Zoo.
What is the strength and thickness requirements for glass enclosures for animals?
The weight, strength and ability to hold large objects that could be used against the glass need to be taken into consideration when specifying glass for animal enclosures. All animal enclosures should be designed so that high impact is avoided. For example, chimpanzee enclosures shouldn’t contain any large stones or other hard objects that they could throw at the glass, and no large surfaces that they could launch off onto the glass should be placed near the enclosure walls. Also, zookeepers have said that lions tend to try and jump through glass that is smaller than 1m x 1m, so it’s best to avoid panes this size in lion enclosures.
Here is a guide to the glass specification for animal enclosures:
|Small monkeys (Lemur, Squirrels, etc.)||2 x 6mm laminated glass with a 1.5 pvb interlayer (2.5kg)|
|Apes||3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5mm pvb interlayers|
|Chimpanzees||3 x 6mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers (up to 700mm x 700mm) – or – 3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers (4m²)|
|Gorillas||2 x 10mm laminated glass with 1.5 a pvb interlayer (1200 x 305mm) – or – 3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers (3m²)|
|Small Cats (e.g. Lynx)||2 x 10mm laminated glass with 1.5 a pvb interlayer|
|Big cats (e.g. Puma)||3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers|
|Tigers||3 x 6mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers (up to 1m x 1m) – or – 3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers (4m²)|
|Lions||3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers|
|Polar bears||3 x 12mm laminated glass with 1.5 pvb interlayers|
The exact glazing specification will depend on the location of the animal enclosures and the particular animal(s). If you are working on a glass animal enclosure and would like to discuss your requirements in detail with a member of our team, just click here.
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