After 33 years of working in an old drafty building in Oxfordshire, international nonprofit CABI has upgraded to a new low-energy home that combines beautiful design with employee wellness and environmental sustainability. Designed by global design firm Scott Brownrigg, CABI’s new purpose-built headquarters in Wallingford provides two stories of flexible office space for its 180 staff members, who work towards solving problems in agriculture and the environment through scientific expertise and advancement. The low-carbon building’s curved rooflines are topped with green roofs that help blend the headquarters into the landscape and promote biodiversity

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Greenery that connects onto the roof of a curved building with windows on the side.

Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the new CABI headquarters responds to its environment with lush living roofs and an abundance of glazing that allows for landscape views in all directions and natural daylighting. The building also taps into passive solar principles with its east-west orientation to minimize unwanted solar gains, thereby reducing energy demands. 

A building with a curved roof and windows on the front.

To further reduce the building’s energy footprint, the architects wrapped the headquarters with a perforated facade featuring operable windows that allow for constant access to clean air — a key priority for office workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In winter, heat recovery ventilation systems are used to pre-warm fresh air before it is pumped to the interiors.

A bird's-eye view of an office complex with a green roof.

Related: Green-roofed Casa 23’s porous facade opens and closes to save energy

“A traffic light system alerts users when the building gets too hot or doesn’t have enough fresh air,” Scott Brownrigg Director Ed Hayden explained in a press release. “It will prompt occupants to open their windows and increase the levels of fresh air in the building. It is designed to rely on communication and cooperation between the building and its users, rather than being heavily M&E driven, providing a natural, healthy and safe environment.” In addition to naturally ventilated workspaces, employees also have access to amenities including a cafe restaurant, meeting rooms, a conference room and an auditorium.

+ Scott Brownrigg

Images by Hundven Clements Photography