RHS Garden Wisley - National Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning

The development represents the first-ever dedicated UK centre of scientific excellence in horticultural and environmental science, horticultural taxonomy and plant health. Skelly & Couch provided energy modelling, environmental design, and daylight and overheating analysis for an international scientific research, visitor, exhibition and archive building at RHS Wisley in Surrey.

The 4700 m2 new-build, hilltop building with a 275 m2 roof terrace sits at the celebrated gardens’ highest point within a Green Belt landscape of significant historic and scientific importance. The new global knowledge bank includes a range of tightly environmentally controlled public and private spaces: research laboratories, exhibition and events space, science libraries, education classrooms, staff offices, an herbarium, an entomology archive store and a visitor café.

The noisy A3 road runs nearby the site, and key challenges have been to design a building that uses little energy and meets the client’s aspirations, while providing a peaceful environment for staff and visitors alike. Tight environmental control of the herbarium archive store ensures the longevity of the preserved specimens, a process which is typically energy-intensive. Skelly & Couch has minimised energy usage through the design of thick, heavyweight walls around the herbarium to reduce temperature fluctuations over the day; of ground-coupled air ducts to provide fresh air; and through the use of hygroscopic materials to help passively reduce swings in humidity levels.

Good practice in environmental design is shown throughout the building by the use of rooflights to provide natural light and natural ventilation; exposed thermal mass for passive cooling; and high specification glazing to reduce overheating in summer.

Other features:

• Cooling by using water from the site-wide irrigation system, which originates from river water and borehole water
• Rooftop Photovoltaic cells which offset 10% of the building’s carbon emissions
• Attenuated natural ventilation
• Mechanical ventilation with heat reclaim.

An AJ Architecture Awards 2022 finalist in the Civic Projects category. A Regional Finalist for both a 2023 Civic Trust Award and a Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design. Winner of a 2023 RIBA South East Award. See the judges' citation: https://www.ribaj.com/buildings/regional-awards-2023-south-east-wilkinsoneyre-rhs-hilltop-culture-entertainment