The Living Planet Centre is a new building housing the WWF UK headquarters, located in Woking, Surrey. Its architectural form is innovative and eye catching, with a curved profile formed of timber laminate beams in a diagonal grid, enabling a sense of openness resulting from the absence of any columns at upper floor level, as well as the accommodation of large trees inside the building. The timber ‘diagrid’ is an integral and prominent part of the internal aesthetics of the building. These and other aspects of the design arose from a powerful architectural vision, which was diligently implemented. Consequently one of the key challenges for Cole Jarman during the acoustic design was for it to dovetail with the architectural aspirations while also achieving suitable acoustics in the various spaces. This resulted in positive compromises in the acoustic design in many cases but also in a facility which is much admired and appreciated by WWF staff and visitors alike, with an acoustic environment which accommodates the architectural features and is appropriate for each space.
Another challenge for all designers was to help ensure the building achieved BREEAM Outstanding. This required all available credits relating to acoustics to be targeted; all of them were subsequently awarded and the building was awarded the Outstanding accolade. Coordination with the architectural and building services designs also resulted in various bespoke acoustic design elements. For example acoustic panels were integrated into the timber dominated curved roof, in order to control reverberant sound in the large open plan spaces and in those cellular spaces which are located directly under the curved roof. These are visible as slots in the timber, with grey fabric behind.
The Conference Room within the building is a multi-purpose space accommodating up to 150 people, used for WWF business as well as informal film screenings and other events to which outside parties are invited. The key challenges in the design of the space were to balance the architectural aspirations with the provision of acoustics suitable for a range of uses. A 3D acoustic model was built to enable comprehensive assessments of various options for the acoustic design. In addition to the slotted panels in the roof, this resulted in fabric covered acoustic panels flush-mounted over a significant area of the side walls. These finishes ensure that the acoustics of the space are appropriate for its use.