Client projects: WWF UK - The Living Planet Centre


WWF UK needed a new home that would act as a standard-bearer to other organisations and allow the World’s leading conservation organisation to demonstrate how symbiotic a genuinely environmentally responsible workplace can be.  Its selection of suitably ethical corporate partners and suppliers, which includes Swedish owned workplace furniture expert Kinnarps, has been a key component in achieving WWF’s vision of a building that works in harmony with nature and inspires, engages and educates its employees and visitors.

WWF had been housed for twenty-five years, in outdated, modular premises on an industrial estate near Godalming.  As WWF UK Director of People and Place, Karen Gravestock explains:

“Our old building, Panda House, simply wasn’t fit for purpose. Originally constructed to be a light industrial unit, the building was never meant to be an office and certainly didn’t help us to demonstrate the sort of environmental values we wanted to champion.”


WWF examined its options to find a solution that would make the best economic and environmental sense and, in collaboration with Woking Borough Council, found a brownfield site with excellent transport links.  The site, above a council car park that was already earmarked for future development, also sits alongside the Basingstoke Canal, a nationally important wildlife habitat, and backs onto the ancient, protected heathland of Horsell Common, placing WWF within easy reach of the kind of environments it exists to champion and protect.

WWF commissioned award-winning architects Hopkins Associates to design The Living Planet Centre a highly functional, yet landmark building, which has since hit its target, of accreditation for achieving Outstanding BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) requirements for environmental performance.  Wilmott Dixon was tasked with construction of the project to Hopkins’, and WWF’s exacting standards.


The conservation organisation has also worked with a raft of corporate partners who share its vision, to create a beautiful, yet exemplary, sustainable workplace.  It selected Kinnarps, from a hotly contested shortlist, as the furniture supplier that met the project’s challenging sustainability criteria, as well as delivering a furnishing solution that helped the workplace to function effectively, supported Hopkins’ aesthetic plans for the space and helped to deliver the project on budget.

“The way people work within a building can make a huge contribution to its sustainability,”observes Gravestock, explaining:

“We were determined to find as many ways as possible to reduce the environmental impact of the building, not just through its physical features such as heating from underground heat pumps and solar powered electricity,  but also undertaking an in-depth review of our working methods, to see where we could optimise the space and resources we consume, without losing effectiveness.”


WWF’s commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of its operations began with the selection of the site, which has been chosen and developed to encourage staff and visitors to use environmentally responsible methods of travelling , with its wealth of covered  bike racks, on-site showers and close proximity to  public transport links. Kinnarps has supported this initiative by providing staff with individual lockers, where they can keep their outdoor gear, towels and cycling helmets, as well as storing their work stuff in the ‘smart boxes’ that facilitate flexible working by allowing a clear desk policy.

Kinnarps has supplied the complete furniture solution, which helps to achieve the rest of the WWF steering group’s ambitions for their new home.  160, open-plan, benched workstations have replaced the 300 individual desks of Panda House and moved WWF to agile working and more effective use of space.  The Living Planet Centre offers 17, variously-sized meeting rooms, equipped to accommodate a wide range of meeting and group working styles, a bright and welcoming social area fitted out with welcoming hospitality furniture, as well as a quiet room, complete with a comfortable daybed, which allows privacy for individual contemplation and recuperation.


Kinnarps was also instrumental in smoothing WWF’s migration to agile working, by helping to demonstrate its benefits to the rest of the organisation. Karen Gravestock explains:

“Kinnarps helped by installing a mock up area in Panda House, which allowed people to see and test drive the kind of furniture they would be using in the Living Planet Centre.  This included the benched workstations and lockers that would let us hot desk effectively and examples of the high backed circular sofas that accommodate ad hoc collaborations and quiet booths, which provide undisturbed concentration space.”

The Living Planet Centre also boasts a welcoming reception area and exhibition space and the much longed-for educational facilities, in the form of a fully equipped 30-pupil classroom with specialist furniture, and a high tech, 150 seat auditorium with a sea of red-upholstered, stackable chairs.


For Karen Gravestock, the success of the relocation project was visible almost immediately, as she explains:

“It was wonderful to find that because the concepts of agile working - such as hot desking and choosing a work space to suit the nature of the day’s tasks - had been communicated so effectively, within an hour of entering the Living Planet Centre our people were already settled in appropriate areas and had started actually working.”

Commenting on the working relationship between WWF and Kinnarps, Karen Gravestock comments:

“In any procurement process, we have to go through a clear and open tender protocol. There was a large tender board and we put Kinnarps and the other manufacturers through a very rigorous qualification process. We have also worked very closely with Kinnarps to make sure that the furniture has all met our very strict environmental criteria. All of the furniture containing timber has either full FSC Chain of Custody or the source materials are FSC Certified.”

She concludes:

“The Kinnarps team has been great -  very personable, always helpful and happy to spend many hours with us making sure that everything we chose contributed not just to the aesthetics of the building, but that the furnishings helped to manage our workflow and acoustics effectively. We spent a lot of time at Kinnarps’s showroom in London, which was a great source of inspiration and allowed us to see agile working ideas in action. The Kinnarps team could not have been any better in terms of customer service and they have been marvellously flexible in coming up with creative solutions to our challenges.”

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