The presence of the World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, in Woking is more than just administrative. The Living Planet Centre is open to the public on weekdays. It has, therefore, become a central resource for schools and youth groups; educating future citizens in caring for their planet. Not something that can be said for your average office building!
The HQ, situated in central Woking, is named The Living Planet Centre. It was made possible by an initial donation by the Rufford Foundation of £5 million back in 2006. The charity then raised an additional £16.5 million through a capital campaign which facilitated the construction of the greenest building possible. There are great lessons to learn from this building for any commercial property investor in Woking.
The WWF was no stranger to Surrey. They occupied an average office building in Godalming when plans for the construction of The Living Planet Centre were first conceived. At this point, the charity considered locations across the UK to build their new hub. They made the deliberate decision to remain in Surrey for reasons by no means unique to the WWF. When costs are considerably lower out of London, this county is home to some really extraordinary commercial buildings, a highly skilled workforce and fantastic transport links.
More specifically, the WWF identified Woking as their ideal home. This was in part down to the brownfield site that was on offer, but also down to the unique features that Woking has to offer. The WWF has reported Woking Borough Council as extremely eco-aware and they were keen to work together. The train links from Woking not just into London but across the South of England enables greener, faster and more efficient travel for staff and visitors. Then there’s the unique mix of urban and rural that Woking offers. The area nearby where Horsell Common meets the Basingstoke Canal is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It allows the charity to work on a local level as well as internationally.
Why is the building innovative?
The Living Planet Centre in Woking is, in part, innovative because it needed to be. As a charity, the WWF had a responsibility to be frugal with their budget without compromising the building’s principles. So it was a project that architects, structural engineers, design consultants, landscapers and builders could be enthused by. From the outside, the curved roof gives a soft and natural appearance to the building, while the ‘wind cowls’ are a striking yet vital part of the building’s passive ventilation system. This is all in keeping with the WWF’s principles and it’s really the joined-up thinking that sits at the heart of innovation here.
How is the building green?
Much of the design of the Living Planet Centre in Woking is a product of its eco functionality. A guiding principle of the project was passive design. The intention being to incorporate elements like natural ventilation, effective insulation and low energy consumption. This means that the building itself contributes to its own energy-efficiency and low-emissions operation. Then there’s the landscaped surroundings within what has become a small wetland site.
What the building offers to visitors
The Living Planet Centre is more than an office. The ‘Visitor Experience’ exhibition space is an education facility and 150-seat auditorium. The inclusion of these facilities benefits the charity’s mission and running costs as it negates the need for travel to and hire of external sites. This is something that many high-quality commercial buildings seek to achieve.
What the building offers to staff
All corporate building owners, landlords and tenants can learn something from the internal layout of this Woking building. It is an open-plan working space for up to 300 people. Light, airy and well ventilated, there is a presence of the natural world within the working environment. This has benefits for staff wellbeing. Included are quiet rooms and meeting areas which meet the demands of the organisation, allowing it to work effectively.