Why We're Giving a Pittsburgh Treasure New Wings

Complex Applications,
Making Glass,
Vitro & Innovation,
Environment & Ecology

Great design is frequently inspired by nature, which is why Vitro Architectural Glass (formerly PPG Glass) is dedicated to its preservation.

In that vein, Vitro is a contributing sponsor to the restoration of the beloved and historic Tropical Rainforest exhibit at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, which is due to reopen in July. Vitro’s contribution to the $1.2 million project will include a supply of 19,600 square-feet of Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, featuring AviProTek® bird-friendly Velour acid-etched finish by Walker Glass.

Richard A. Beuke, president of Vitro Architectural Glass, said the sponsorship is meant to highlight Vitro’s total commitment to community involvement and the preservation of the natural environment. “Vitro is honored to partner with the National Aviary on this historical exhibit, which has attracted people from around the world for more than 65 years,” he said. “The renovation is an ideal showcase for the unique characteristics of Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass, which will greatly enhance the aesthetics, performance and bird-friendly aspects of the Rainforest’s new glass dome.”

A Modern Spin on History

The Tropical Rainforest habitat first opened its doors to the public in 1952, and has remained a staple at the National Aviary ever since. For more than half a century, the habitat maintained its original single-strength annealed float glass, and the glazing compounds that hold the glass in place have started to show their age, resulting in a loose, chalky substance. While still structurally sound, the compound has compromised the overall framework of the habitat, allowing water and air to infiltrate the enclosure.

Dedicated to the rejuvenation of this national hallmark, Vitro is providing the means to preserve the habitat. Dlubak Specialty Glass Corp. of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, will fabricate 3,100 panes of laminated glass for the project. Further emphasizing the importance of ecology in the project, nationally-recognized, Cincinnati-based firm Greenhouse RSI will install the glass. Greenhouse and conservatory preservation, design and engineering experts at Kentucky-based Montgomery Smith, Inc. will act as the project’s historic conservatory consultant.

Innovation Takes Flight

Each year, more than 600 million birds die in the United States due to collisions with glass. To create a functional and safe biome for birds in a glass habitat, Vitro needed to collaborate with bird safety experts. With the welfare of the birds as the top priority, Vitro’s architectural representatives worked closely with experts at the National Aviary to craft the perfect home for our feathered friends. A custom glass specification was developed, which incorporates complete acid-etched coverage on the exterior (#1) surface of ultra-premium, low-iron Starphire Ultra-Clear® glass. The result is a glass with a threat factor of five, allowing the birds to avoid glass collisions at least 95 percent of the time.

In the development of the custom glass, all birds were taken into consideration—even the ones that aren’t flitting about the Aviary’s tropical trees. The unique nature of the new glass will shield the birds inside the dome from the sharp eyes of Pennsylvania’s native birds of prey. This will prevent the predators from attempting to reach potential prey living inside the enclosure. In addition, the translucent finish of the glass will maximize the ultraviolet (UV) and visible light transmittance (VLT) to allow crucial sunlight to filter in on the dome’s avian and plant inhabitants.

An Education in Preservation

The Tropical Rainforest habitat’s transformation will enhance the National Aviary’s status as a world-class attraction and set a precedent for the protection and care of the planet’s birds, and the environment as a whole. To promote education, Vitro also will help fund the National Aviary’s School Field Trips education program.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for updates on this exciting new partnership.

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

Updated on May 26, 2022