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Living Planet Centre, WWF-UK Headquarters

Living Planet Centre, WWF-UK Headquarters

Commercial and Public Access Highly Commended 2014

Location: WWF-UK Headquarters, Woking, Surrey
Client: WWF-UK
Architect: Hopkins Architects
Structural Engineer: Expedition Engineering Ltd
Main contractor: Wilmott Dixon
Joinery company: NH Etheridge
Wood supplier: Mayr Meinhof Kaufmann
Wood species: Ash, Birch, LVL, Spruce
Diagrid Joinery: Constructional Timber
Glulam supplier:   Timbmet Group Ltd
Services Engineer: Atelier Ten

Located on a prominent and challenging brownfield site above an existing public car park at the edge of Woking’s Town Centre, the new Living Planet Centre (LPC) is WWF-UK’s new ultra-green administrative building. It houses 300 staff over two storeys in a collaborative, open-plan environment together with conference and educational facilities and the new public WWF Experience exhibit. Timber has been chosen for its structural and sustainable properties as well as its aesthetics and as such features prominently throughout the interior and exterior.

The LPC has been created to set an ambitious new precedent for similarly-sized organisations and maximises on-site sustainable features to target a BREEAM Outstanding rating. The striking curved roof is composed of a structurally-efficient curving grid shell, chosen to allow the 37.5m wide building to be free from roof support columns throughout its interior. LVL spans across the diagrid frame as structural decking while infill panels sit within the grid shell diamonds to act as thermal and acoustic absorption panels, with soffits composed of birch plywood; the diagrid itself is made of spruce glued-laminated timbers. These all work in conjunction with ribbons of roof lights to create a warm and light-filled interior environment for staff and visitors.

Eastern and western ends of the building are fully glazed to allow natural light into the building, with larch horizontal louvres providing protection against solar gain and helping enhance the building’s aesthetic from the outside. Office space is arranged around a doubleheight internal street which adds focus and sociability to the internal environment. The open nature of the building allows for easy future adjustment of internal partitions and layout to thoroughly futureproof the building. More private conference rooms and support areas are enclosed within timber framed walls clad with naturally-finished birch panelling, while balustrade railings are made from ash. At the main entrance, the new WWF Experience features four themed birch ply exploration zones and functions as an educational tool for visitors to the building.

To reflect and enhance the rich surrounding ecology and biodiversity, the building has been designed to limit its impact on the site and this podium is flanked by a series of green, planted spaces filled with trees, shrubs and flowers. Surrounding the site, existing trees have been retained and a new wetlands area created to provide a wildlife corridor from the Basingstoke Canal to Horsell Moor and enhance the public realm along the historic canal. A replacement bridge from the town centre has been constructed as an extension of the public piazza at podium level to provide an enhanced connection to the local community. For this, a timber structure has been utilised to reduce embodies carbon and soften its impact on the local natural surroundings, this helps to set up a relationship with the other new building to the north. Finally, three small outbuildings house cycle and refuge storage and are constructed of larch.