Shelter: Ecodesign in the Real World - Fall 1999

Designing and Constructing Bird Nesting Shelters


Ecologists generally believe that animal behavior is the product of evolution and thus reflects the best possible solution to a host of environmental constraints faced by that species. For example, a bird nesting structure is thought to reflect conditions that optimize the chance for successful reproduction. Thus the primary design component of a shelter might be related to a single overarching performance measure known as fitness, where fitness is the relative contribution an individual makes to the next generation. We talk about a species' niche as the limits of environmental constraints within which a species can survive, grow and reproduce, i.e. be fit. Human shelters can reflect the best possible solution to host of environmental constraints with an expanded list of performance measures, such as ecodesign. These constraints and performance measures ultimately may be related to our own survival as a species. In this exercise we will explore the ideas of niche, environmental constraints, and ecodesign, by researching, designing, and building a bird nesting shelter.

Assignment (also see calendar of important dates below)

Each student will select one bird species from a list provided in class in Week 2, and over the course of week 2-5 write a draft literature review on the nesting requirements of that species. We will discuss how to conduct a literature review and what form the literature review paper will take on Oct 4 and 6 during workshop time. There may not be much published about a particular species' nesting requirements, in which case you may need to research a closely related species for which there is more information. You may also want to contact a scientist directly who studies your species.

Based on your literature review and what you have learned in the course, you will create 5 design drawings for your nesting structure which are due by the end of studio on Oct 25th. The first design should be an optimum nesting shelter solely from the bird's perspective. Each element of the nesting structure should reflect what is known about the species' habitat requirements or preferences, e.g., the size and shape of the hole (if any), the dimension of the platform, the volume of the cavity, ventilation, or nesting cup dimensions, etc. You might also consider things like sustainability. For example, some bird species may not nest in a structure that contains nesting material from the previous year. Thus you may want to design a removable wall that allows for cleaning of the cavity. The second design should include all the elements of the first design in addition to ornamental elements that might make the nesting structure more aesthetically pleasing to human observers. The third, fourth, and fifth designs should include all elements of the first two designs in addition to meeting provisional definitions of "ecodesign".

During studio on Oct 29th, students will begin making three dimensional (mock-up) models of bird shelters: each student is expected to create three models by the end of studio on Nov 2. During studio on Nov 2, we will begin orthographic drawing of our final bird house model. During week 6, 7, and 8, students will construct their final bird shelters during out-of-class time. Students will set up their final bird shelters for display during studio on Nov 30th. During the early portion of the course we will have an opportunity to learn how to use wood working tools and once you have had a wood-shop training session, you will have access to the wood shop at certain times.

From your literature review, you also should determine where to place the nest structure for optimum usage by your species. For example, should the nesting structure be placed on the ground, or high in a tree? Should it be hidden by dense vegetation or perched in the top of a tree with no overhead cover? Your literature review paper should be about two pages in length and contain these three elements: Title, Findings, and a Literature Cited section. The Title should tell the most important design constraint of your species. For example, your species may require a nest box entrance that has very strict size requirements that excludes a slightly larger and superior competing species. This crucial feature might form the basis for your title. The Findings section is similar to an abstract in a scientific journal article with one exception, the inclusion of cited literature. That is, your paper should cite appropriate scientific literature used to design your nesting structure and decide where it should be placed. For example, it might include sentences like this: "The cavity opening is approximately circular with a diameter ranging from 4.5 to 6.7 cm (Franklin et al. 1988)." Finally, the Literature Cited section at the end of the paper includes all papers cited in the body of your text and no others. The final literature review is due on Nov. 30th and will be included in your program notebook.

Important dates for bird nesting structure exercise

Week 2: Oct 4 and 6th, (Workshop 10:30-12 noon) kick off date for project; select a species, develop library and web research skills.

Week 2-4 (Out of class time) Students conduct literature review of selected species.

Week 2-4 (Check in times). Check in on literature review as needed by students.

Week 5 (Check in, Oct 25). Draft literature review complete, students prepared to begin design drawings of bird shelter.

Week 5. (Studio Oct 26). Begin drawing designs for 5 bird shelters.

Week 5 (Studio Oct 29). Finish 5 design drawings and begin bird shelter model construction.

Week 6 (Studio Nov 2). Complete bird shelter models and begin orthographic drawings of bird shelters

Week 7-8. (Out of class time). Build final bird shelter.

Week 7-8. (Check in). Check in on bird shelter progress as needed by students.

Week 9 (Studio Nov 30). Students put up bird shelter display. Shelters show open to public at selected times during week 9 and 10.

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