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Do something new - go green with WWF-UK

This year you can explore one of the greenest buildings in the country over Heritage Open Days. Tessa Manser, Events Coordinator for WWF - UK tells us more about the site and its plans...

© Richard Stonehouse - • Surrounded by nature, the Living Planet Centre is a sustainable building with the environment at the forefront of its design

As the events coordinator at WWF’s Living Planet Centre in Woking, I’m lucky enough to be running a huge range of different events.  These vary from public open days (such as Woking Food Festival), and family workshops during school holidays, to working with local community groups and corporates who hire the building for their own events - there is always lots going on. Plus it all takes place in our fantastic award winning building!

I’m thrilled to announce that WWF’s Living Planet Centre will be open on Saturday 12th September for Heritage Open Days 2015.

1. What’s special about your site? 

The Living Planet Centre is very special to me, because I was part of the team that was responsible for moving WWF-UK to Woking from our old home in Godalming. I saw the project come to life from initial design concepts, through to visiting the building site during construction, moving our people in, and finally organising the official opening ceremony by Sir David Attenborough in November 2013. 

The Living Planet Centre is multi-award winning (including awards from the Institution of Structural Engineers Awards, the Concrete Society award, and most recently receiving a RIBA National Award 2015), and is one of the greenest buildings in the UK. The project has FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accreditation, meaning the timber used is sustainably sourced, and is a BREEAM Outstanding project. BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method - it sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design and measures environmental performance of buildings. The Outstanding rating is incredibly hard to achieve, so I am really proud that the Living Planet Centre has this accreditation (we scored over 90% greater than the 85% score required).

The building is unique in that all of its components are reusable or recyclable, and have been tested to see what their carbon footprint would be to produce and ship to the site (these were altered to reduce carbon footprint where-ever possible).

The Living Planet Centre has sustainable features that utilise what nature gives us for free, such as rainwater harvesting tanks so we can save water when flushing the toilets, solar panels to generate energy, and earth ducts and ground source heat pumps to aid heating and cooling, instead of using air conditioning. You can learn all about these and many other features by joining a building tour on Heritage Open Days – find out more and sign up by visiting

My favourite moment from WWF-UK’s Heritage Open Day last year was hearing from our architects, Hopkins (who also designed the velodrome for the London 2012 Olympic Games). They spoke about initial ideas about what the building might be like, and all the challenges and changes along the way to continually improve the functionality of the building, as well as ensure it would be an inspirational space for WWF–UK and our visitors.

2. How does HODs help you celebrate it? 

Heritage Open Days gives an opportunity for people to experience local history, architecture and culture.  It helps us to celebrate the uniqueness of the Living Planet Centre, a very modern building, alongside a variety of more historical sites around Surrey. There’s lots to choose from in Woking, both old and new, so why not visit the town on 12th September?

WWF-UK has only been involved in one Heritage Open Day, last September 2014 (as we only opened to the public in January 2014), and I was keen to get involved with the next one as our new building has a lot to offer. It is nestled between the Basingstoke Canal and Horsell Common (which is a SSSI - site of special scientific interest). The area has great history and a variety of biodiversity, which WWF-UK tries to encourage to the site.

3. What new things do you have planned to celebrate HODs this year? 

This year, the Living Planet Centre will offer something for everyone during Heritage Open Day, from family workshops in our Learning Zone (suitable for age 4+) to behind the scenes tours for anyone interested in sustainable design. If you want to know more about conservation and WWF’s work around the world, then the WWF Experience will be open to explore – these are four interactive zones covering the main areas of our work: Forests, Wildlife, Freshwater and Oceans. Kids can take part in a treasure hunt and we’ll also have a heritage trail that you can follow between The Lightbox (a neighbouring museum and gallery) and WWF-UK.

By visiting the Living Planet Centre, WWF-UK can show members of the public, architects and future influencers what is possible, and how technology has advanced and allows us to work more sustainably. We want to inspire both current and future generations to live a greener lifestyle and make more environmentally friendly choices.

Have we whetted your appetite, do you fancy discovering something new? 

​​If you are looking for further inspiration take a look at our other 'do something new' posts.