Living Building Challenge

We are excited to say that the Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Centre, designed by Straw Works and built by volunteers with training from SNaB, is the first Living Building Challenge registered building in the UK.

The Challenge:

We believe the Living Building Challenge to be the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment out there.

It offers a regenerative way of thinking about design and construction that is rooted in place and (re)connects people with nature.

The Challenge is composed of 20 Imperatives, grouped into seven key performance categories, or ‘petals’ to be considered in regenerative design:

  • Place – to be informed by and align to the characteristics of a building’s setting and landscape
  • Water – buildings should be independent, and operate within the water balance of a given place and climate, taking only what they need and cleaning what they put back into the ground
  • Energy – buildings should generate 105% of their own energy without using any combustion
  • Health & Happiness – to create environments that optimise physical and psychological health and well being
  • Materials – to ensure no toxic materials are used in the construction of a building
  • Equity – buildings should be just and accessible for their users and for those who build them
  • Beauty – to celebrate design that uplifts the human spirit and provides connections with nature. Architecture should inspire and educate future projects and generations

The Challenge invites innovation and creativity; by stipulating what a building should do, but not how it should get there, this prompts a variety of responses with buildings that are contextualised to their local setting and climate.

It uses a holistic approach, drawing together thinking from the worlds of architecture, engineering, planning, interiors, landscape design and policy. Internationally recognised, it aims to build a global network of Living Buildings to transform how we think about design and propel the industry towards more sustainable practice.

The building was shortlisted for the ASBP Awards 2019

The project:

The Challenge clearly aligns with our approach here at Straw Works, so we are determined to pursue certification for the Visitor Centre in as many petals as possible, with a view to achieve full certification.

The project is being led by Barbara Jones and Martin Brown of Fairsnape who have championed the building from the start. They are firm believers in the importance of the Living Building Challenge certification and the wider implications of being an exemplar of sustainable building.

The Visitor Centre was first registered with the Living Building Challenge in 2015. After facing numerous challenges as a result of being opened before construction was complete and more recently Covid-19, it is only now undergoing certification. As a result, over the next twelve months the building is being subject to monitoring data in areas such as air quality, energy and water.

The building:

The Challenge’s philosophy, which is rooted in the symbiotic relationship between people and nature, is at the heart of the Cuerden Valley Park Visitor Centre. Being in the Green Belt, a design brief to use natural materials and have minimal environmental impact was laid out from the start, before the Living Building Challenge was even considered. Barbara Jones and Jakub Wihan worked closely with the Trust to take a holistic approach to the building and the landscape in which it sits. Set into the hillside, the building acts as a hub for the park’s conservation work and environmental education programmes, as well as being a great spot to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the views across the valley!

You can read more about the design and details of the build on our project page here.

For more information on the Living Building Challenge, please get in touch with Barbara at