As night falls in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of small, dark birds known as Vaux’s swifts begin their search for a place to roost. For this migratory species, classified as “climate endangered” by the National Audubon Society, the quest isn’t easy. Due to declining forestland in the region, the birds, which typically rely on large, hollow trees for nesting and roosting, have limited options available.
Some Vaux’s swifts have taken to industrial chimneys as an alternative roosting habitat. But with updated building codes requiring enhanced earthquake resistance and safety, many of these structures are being demolished, leaving the birds with nowhere to go. Enter Larry Schwitters, an award-winning environmentalist and advocate for Vaux’s swifts.
Schwitters, who has worked with the birds for several years, knew alternative roosting sites would need to be constructed. The question was, what building material would they use?
Seeking an appropriate design and building material, Schwitters reached out to Rick Day, president of Advantage Precast Inc. in Keizer, Ore. After the two parties discussed the issue, Day and Advantage Precast developed a concept, drafted a CAD drawing and crafted an artist rendering of their proposed solution – a 30-foot-tall precast concrete tower.
According to Day, the tower consists of two main sections manufactured from standard precast products. The bottom portion contains three 48-inch ID, extended-base manhole risers, while the top portion is comprised of two pieces of 30-inch ID reinforced concrete pipe. The lower half of the tower extends 7 feet underground to provide adequate ballast, and the structure is fitted with steel straps to offer protection during seismic events. To ensure the swifts can roost properly, the production team also added grooves on the inside.
Day was excited to convert standard products into a custom solution and noted it was an important endeavor for Advantage Precast.
“As precasters, we rarely get the opportunity to put our products above ground where the public can see them,” he said. “Designing something new and different was exciting and interesting for everyone involved.”
Schwitters and the NAS were thrilled with the solution, and after obtaining project approval, the tower was installed in Albany, Ore. Day explained that although this tower is the first of its kind, the hope is that up to 70 more will be added along the West Coast. Day is confident that precast meets the needs of Vaux’s swifts and the NAS perfectly.
“Precast concrete has a phenomenal lifespan and the finished product looks great,” he said. “It will serve its purpose for a long time.”
Learn more about Vaux’s swifts and the installation of the precast concrete solution by viewing the video below.