Building for Bats

Creating Utah's First Bat Barn at the Great Salt Lake

A Unique and Ambitious Project

In October of 2016, the Utah Chapter of the Conservancy announced the beginning of a unique and ambitious project: the construction of a first-of-its-kind bat barn at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve. After a colony of bats were excluded from their roost in the attic of a local business, the Conservancy teamed up with Architectural Nexus to design a new home for these misunderstood creatures.

But as it turned out, no ordinary bat box would do, especially for the large colonies of bats that migrate to the Great Salt Lake to feast on its bounty of insects. Some bat species, like the Mexican free-tailed bat, need ample fly space, plenty of baffles on which to perch, and a drop-off at least 20-feet high in order to gain enough momentum to take flight.

With the specific needs of Utah’s bat species in mind, Architectural Nexus donated their time and expertise to the Conservancy to design a customized bat barn with enough space to comfortably hold large bat colonies and lure the evicted bats to better-suited habitat at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve.

The Winning Design

When presented with the opportunity to design a bat barn as one of their volunteer activities, the teams at Architectural Nexus showed great enthusiasm and were eager to get started.
“Time was a scarce resource for Arch Nexus’ volunteer teams,” says Arch Nexus President, Kenner Kingston, “but they were committed to making time for this important community project.”

The firm hosted a Bat Barn Competition for its employees, the winner of which would see their plan come to life as a permanent installment at the preserve. In November 2016, the teams submitted their designs and a winner was selected.


Winning bat barn design. © Architectural Nexus

The “house” portion of the winning design is simple and modular, wrapped in marine-grade rope to screen sunlight and help regulate temperature. This component will be attached to the “exoskeleton,” a towering wooden log structure to designed hold the house high above the ground.

This particular plan also complements the nature-inspired design of the boardwalk and existing pavilions at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, while also allowing the house to be easily modified in the future.

Changing Perceptions of Bats

With construction slated to begin in the spring of 2017, the task of finding a home for Utah’s bats is near completion. However, there remains the greater challenge of changing the community’s perception of these beneficial critters. Yet, the Conservancy and bat enthusiasts hope to achieve this by educating the public and raising awareness.

As the architects themselves learned, when it comes to bats, there is a lot to be thankful for. Every hour, bats are capable of consuming more than one thousand insects. Without their crucial ecological services, farmers would be evermore troubled by agricultural pests and more humans bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes.

“Before this project I would have told you about my reasonable, but existing uncomfortable relationship with the winged creatures of the night,” says Nic Tucker, Intern Architect at Architectural Nexus. “That being said, I’ve had a chance to be up close with bats since working on this project, and found myself much more interested and intrigued by them! They are a unique animal species and are mesmerizing to watch fly and crawl.”

Visit the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve this summer to see the newly constructed bat barn in action.


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