Integration of bird nest boxes within the facade

Aufnahme eines modernen Hauses mit grünem Garten, bei dem Nistkästen in der Fassade integriert sind

Birds are finding fewer and fewer shelters to breed and raise their young. Hanging nest boxes helps robins, tits and co. In the meantime, there are not only familiar models that can be seen in gardens or on the walls of houses. Together with experts of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) in Germany, Saint-Gobain Weber has developed special nest boxes that can be integrated into the facade. We explain how species protection with nesting boxes and good facade insulation can be combined.

1. Why do birds need nest boxes on the facade?

Due to increasing building development and increasingly sterile gardens, there are fewer and fewer natural habitats and shelters for birds. However, some bird species, such as swifts, tits and sparrows are more often looking for nesting sites on house walls. Some species even depend on nesting opportunities on the facade. If they do not find a suitable place, they do not shy away from nesting in unsuitable places, e.g. roller shutter boxes, or from drilling a suitable hole in the wall. This can damage the existing facade insulation.

The renovation of the old building envelope with a new external thermal insulation composite system (ETICS) results in the loss of potential breeding grounds for birds, of all things.  At the same time, energy modernization as part of the energy transition is particularly important for climate protection and species conservation. However, renovation with ETICS and species protection do not need to be a contradiction. Damage to the facade insulation caused by birds nesting can also be avoided. There are now nest boxes for various bird and animal species that can be integrated into the ETICS without impairing its insulating properties. It is therefore worthwhile to include possible nesting aids in the facade renovation at an early stage.

2. How can I make my house homely for birds?

Nest boxes built into the facade are basically discreet and provide an attractive living space for the animals. German experts of NABU have helped to develop the Weber nest box range for different bird species. This means that it can be assumed that the needs of different species have been taken into account and that the animals feel comfortable in the boxes.

Careful planning is important for birds to successfully colonise a nesting aid in the facade. This begins with the identification of the native animals and ends with the placement of the appropriate nest box in the most appropriate position for the bird on the facade. Depending on the bird species, different models are offered that provide breeding places suitable for the specific species.

Extra tip:

For all building owners planning a renovation, it is advisable to pay attention to animals already living on the house. If species worthy of protection are only discovered during the construction phase, this can lead to construction delays or even costly building stops. In addition, a suitable nest box can then be planned directly into the ETICS for these species. Depending on the season, nesting and breeding times must be observed. Disregarding existing resting and breeding sites is a violation of German and European nature conservation laws. Together with an expert from the animal welfare association, it is possible to plan in good time when the birds will leave the nesting site and how to attract them again to their new home in the facade insulation.

3. Which types of shelter exist?

In addition to birds, some insect species and bats also find shelter in facades and in wall niches. For offering as many native animal species as possible an alternative living space on facade insulation, the Weber range of nesting boxes is aimed at various animal species:

  • nest boxes for birds (swift, house sparrow, redstart, titmouse and starling)
  • roosting boxes for bats
  • nesting boxes for wild bees

The facade nesting boxes are made of wood concrete and render underlay boards so that they are stable enough for installation within external thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS) and the animals feel comfortable inside. At the same time, the boxes fulfil the necessary technical construction requirements.

4. How are nest boxes installed?

When installing nest boxes, damage to the facade must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, the installation should always be carried out by a specialist. This is how nest boxes are installed in 5 steps. 

  • Step 1: select a nest box that matches the facade system and has the same thickness as the thermal insulation material. 
  • Step 2: cut an opening the size of the nest box into the ETICS insulation. 
  • Step 3: the nest box is pushed into the opening and fixed with bonding and reinforcing mortar. 
  • Step 4: when the box is flush with the surface of the insulation board, the reinforcing mortar is applied. The reinforcing woven mesh should show a recess at the entry opening. It is placed around the entry opening and embedded in the mortar layer. 
  • Step 5: after sufficient standing time, the overlay render (topcoat) is applied. In the case of some nest box versions, the cleaning rosette is placed on top.

5. What else should be considered?

Depending on the bird species, the number and placement of the nest boxes play a role. House sparrows, for example, like to breed in colonies, so it makes sense to install several boxes close together. Swifts mainly look for nesting sites under the eaves or gable, which is why the boxes should be placed as high up on the house as possible. It is important to ensure that birds can approach the entry opening unhindered and that there are no obstacles in their flight path. In addition, nest boxes should not be placed on the weather side if possible. 

As is well known, classic birdhouses need to be cleaned regularly. In the Weber nest box range, this depends on the model or the species of bird that lives in it. Some birds clean their nests themselves. In the case of boxes in which, for example, titmice have been roosting, the cleaning rosette can be removed with a simple movement of the hand. Tips for usage are available from the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), for example.

6. Conclusion: sustainable for humans and animals

Anyone who decides to renovate their building and insulate its facade with ETICS can do double good and directly strengthen species conservation. On the one hand, the building becomes more energy-efficient and climate-friendly, and on the other hand, animal species, such as birds and wild bees can be protected by integrating special nesting boxes into the facade.

Professional tip:

If nest boxes for the facade are planned directly, they can be integrated into the facade insulation with less effort. It is particularly important that the boxes are compatible with the specific ETICS. Therefore, these types of nest boxes should always be from the same manufacturer as the ETICS or at least be approved by it. Technical data sheets provide reliable information for installation and use.