Manufacturer Case Study: A Different Kind of Office Politics

The following case study was submitted by manufacturer Bird Barrier. It tells the story of how a Texas PCO solved a challenging pest bird problem at the high-profile Preston Commons in Dallas, a complex with high-profile tenants, including T. Boone Pickens.

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August 24, 2010

Birds roost on ledges and nest behind columns.
StealthNet protects window cutouts and spans trough between the wall and ledge, which is protected by Flex-Track.
Four rows of Flex-Track protect the ledges.

Editor’s note: The following case study was submitted by manufacturer Bird Barrier. It tells the story of how a Texas PCO solved a challenging pest bird problem at the high-profile Preston Commons in Dallas, a complex with high-profile tenants, including T. Boone Pickens.

What’s not frustrating about the commercial real estate market these days?  The effects of the current economic slowdown are perhaps felt more strongly in real estate than any other industry.  As supply and demand issues sort themselves out, owners and managers still have to deal with the day-to-day issues of running a building.

Take a task as seemingly simple as window cleaning.  The owner of the Preston Commons office complex in Dallas, Texas was forced to spend triple his usual (and budgeted) cost for window cleaning each year.  Not because the window cleaners were doing poor work or overcharging – neither was the case – but because of an infestation of birds!

The increased spending was only half of the problem.  The accumulation of droppings had become so substantial that window cleaning crews complained about the working environment.  The window cleaners weren’t alone in their reluctance to service the building – painters and other trades people flat-out refused to work on the building.  It’s no surprise to anyone that an office building is an attractive roosting spot for a wide variety of bird species. What may be shocking is just how troublesome such an infestation can become, and how dramatically the problem can impact an operator’s relationship with his community and his tenants.

Preston Commons is nestled in Park Cities, one of Dallas’ most coveted areas, comprised of Highland Park and University Park.  It’s a three-building, Class A office complex located in the prestigious Preston Center.  The properties occupy 4.3 acres of land with a total of 422,874 square feet and feature exemplary on-site amenities including full service banking, a three-level parking garage and advanced telecommunications systems.

Certainly no one would blame the birds for desiring Preston Commons:  the parking garage sports Bentleys and Ferarris, and the offices themselves sport well-heeled CPA firms, the Park Cities News, and oil man T. Boone Pickens.

“When birds choose to take up residence on office buildings, their occupation can become a big problem for more than just the contractors,” said Cameron Riddell of Bird Barrier America, Inc., (www.birdbarrier.com) a manufacturer of bird deterrent products headquartered in Carson, Calif. “The inconvenience and health risks posed by a large number of roosting birds affect people in the building as well as surrounding businesses and homes – and can even create a public relations nightmare for the building owner or operator.”

The management company decided to take action, and contacted Accurate Quality Services in Krum, Texas, just outside of Denton, home to the University of North Texas.  Accurate had established a reputation for solving bird problems after successes nearby.

Don’t Mess With Texas
Texas’ long-touted litter law did not seem to strike the intended fear into birds.  Accurate’s owner, Ray Hageman, explains, “Bird ‘litter’ is a common problem. There aren’t too many stories about bird droppings I haven’t heard, or seen for myself.” 

Hageman, who has worked in the bird and pest control industry for more than 15 years, has first-hand experience with just how much chaos a flock of birds can cause – and just how difficult it can be to convince them to find somewhere else to roost.

Sitting Ducks… Er, Pigeons

From the perspective of a bird living in an urban environment, a building ledge or other protected part of the building is the perfect spot.  Not only does it provide a bird’s-eye-view, as it were, of the territory and all potential food sources, predators and threats, but it provides shelter as well. And these pigeons found this particular office building very appealing. Their human neighbors, however, were less than thrilled with the birds’ preference. Pigeons and other birds can create a range of problems – from the potential health issues associated with their droppings to the cost of cleaning their waste.

The health issues are neither imaginary, nor something to be taken lightly.  In fact a recent study found two types of bacteria, highly prevalent in the pigeon population, which cause illness in humans – one is considered the primary pathogen responsible for acute diarrhea in the world.  And avoiding direct contact might not prevent infection, as bacteria can be dispersed in the air, or can contaminate food and water.

Further, bird droppings are slippery and contribute a substantial safety issue for workers, tenants and customers.  There was simply no question that the birds had to go. How to evict them was the issue. “Of course you want to do this as humanely as possible,” Hageman said. “You don’t want to harm the animals; you just want to convince the wildlife that they want to be somewhere else.”

In fact, said Bird Barrier’s Riddell, lethal methods would almost certainly not solve the problem of a bird infestation. “Killing the birds already in residence only means you create opportunity for new ones to move in,” he noted. “A far more effective and lasting solution is to convince current and potential interlopers that the structure is no longer an option.”

One for Column A

Hageman had become an old hand at bird control through experience and education, and after careful observation and research he had a plan.  Hageman noted that the property owner had chosen to modernize the building’s façade by securing pre-cast columns to the ledges that run under the windows on each floor.  The pigeons were roosting on the ledges, and built nests in the protected areas behind the columns.  The design feature was part of the problem, and the newly-created protected areas needed to be 100% excluded.

Hageman’s first tool of choice was StealthNet, one of BirdBarrier’s most timeless solutions.  Hageman and his crew attached 2-inch heavy duty StealthNet between the columns and the outer wall.  “The most difficult aspect of this job was the cleanup.  We had to secure the net as we cleaned in order to prevent additional buildup of droppings,” said Hageman.  In the end, the crew removed more than 4200 pounds of droppings and debris.  Hageman waves the manifest in the air, which was required for this hazardous waste, to punctuate his point.

StealthNet is composed of high density knotted strands of ultra-violet stabilized polyethylene twine.  The material is more than five times stronger than plastic molded nets, and can last upwards of a decade. Though it’s ultra-strong, StealthNet is quite thin, and when the black, stone (beige) or white netting is installed against an appropriate-colored exterior, it’s nearly invisible.  Surprisingly, the black StealthNet is usually the least visible even against light backgrounds as it does not absorb light.

And One for Column B

Hageman’s plan for the ledges themselves involved a different tactic.  To maintain the building’s aesthetics while deterring birds from the ledges, he chose Bird-Shock Flex-Track, in gray to match the building, and installed four rows of track to protect the entire depth of the ledge.  As the installation progressed, birds moved from the protected areas of the building.  “We noticed pigeons attempting to land on the ledges and flying away once they came in contact with the Flex-Track,” explained Hageman.

The low-profile Flex-Track ledge deterrent system that Hageman chose uses a low-amperage (but high voltage) electrical pulse to deter pest birds; basically a painful but non-harmful pulse that shocks the birds’ feet when they try to stand on it. “It uses the principle of fear and flight to condition birds to stay away,” Riddell explained. “The birds are not harmed, only delivered a message not to return.”  The Humane Society weighs in on this subject as well:  “(Bird Barrier’s) approach to using electric shock to deal with problem birds has been, in our opinion, well thought-out,” said John Hadidian, Director of Urban Wildlife Programs for the Humane Society of the United States. “We retain a high regard for their conscientious and considered approach in such matters.”

Flex-Track is comprised of an extruded, flexible PVC base with two stainless steel braid conductors that are actually sewn onto the base. It comes in 50-foot rolls so installation is very simple. The track is available in five standard colors to match most applications. At one and a half inches wide, and just a quarter of an inch tall, the product is literally invisible from below. Bird Barrier offers solar and plug-in chargers that connect to the track and send the pulse to the birds’ feet.

Hageman said results are positive, and the building owner is pleased. It’s a solution that has proven effective and non-harmful to the birds, an important factor when dealing with such a publicly visible situation.  “I’ve done this for long enough that I was able to cut right to the correct solution, and not waste time or money with trials of something that may or may not work,” attests Hageman.  “I know where I have to treat, and more importantly, where not to treat.”

Hageman’s referring to the birds that briefly tried to roost on the 1½-inch window sill just after he had treated the ledges.  Management immediately wanted him to treat the sills as well, at additional cost.  But Hageman knew better, and didn’t want to spend unnecessary time or money.  Within the week the birds gave up on the sills permanently, as it just wasn’t attractive, or sizable enough, real estate for roosting.

“Today’s savvy customers face a host of issues when choosing a bird-control product,” said Riddell. “Bird-Shock Flex-Track and StealthNet eliminate many of those issues. Both are virtually invisible, so there’s no eyesore.  Neither causes noise to annoy nearby humans, neither requires much maintenance, and neither breaks the budget.”  Hageman adds, “And in this case, the installation of the bird deterrent has actually saved the building money – window washing is back on its regular schedule, and trades people don’t figure in hazard pay.  It’s good insurance against birds ruining the business!”

Bird Barrier can be reached at 800-503-5444 or www.birdbarrier.com.