Sun Life is a leading, global, financial services company that helps their clients achieve lifetime financial security and live healthier lives, by providing a broad range of protection and wealth products and services to individuals, businesses and institutions, including: insurance, investments, advice, and asset management. The Canadian firm has been operating in Waterford for over two decades – CJFA assisted them in establishing their first offices in Ireland, and we have worked on a number of projects with our client throughout that time. This includes having previously undertaken a successful refurbishment and extension project for the Sun Life European Headquarters, IDA Industrial Park, Waterford, Ireland, which was completed in 2015 – a project which saw the consolidation of a number of disparate Sun Life offices on the Waterford IDA Industrial Park, into a single, 3,637m2 building.
This ongoing close relationship with our client, subsequently saw the beginning of design work for a new project in 2019, which sought to further expand the existing 2015 Sun Life premises, into an adjacent, vacant, industrial manufacturing unit – to accommodate the growth of Sun Life in Ireland as their European headquarters. The project would subsequently see an extensive adaptation, refurbishment, and fitout, of the neighbouring industrial unit, as well as the refurbishment of the existing Sun Life premises – which would increase the floor area to a combined 56,000sq.ft. / 5,202m2, user-focused, contemporary workplace. The brief also uniquely evolved to include an aspiration by the client, that the refurbishment and expansion project would be a flagship ‘Future of Work’ (FoW) development, that the Canadian company would subsequently use as a precedent, for their new approach to workplace design, to be rolled out into their offices around the world.
Part of this, was the creation of a design guide, which, following research, established typologies of spaces – (‘The Village’ / ‘The Collaboration Space’ / ‘The Library (Focus)’ – which would meet different uses, and including a variety of collaboration and meeting spaces, and fitted-out with various adaptable and static workpoints, facilities, and audio-visual systems, for different types of requirements. Construction began at the end of October 2021, and delivered in a two-phase, swift process [Phase 1 (Bay 3 – Expansion Element – with Elements of Phase 2 in-parallel) completed in July 2022; Phase 2 (Bays 1 & 2 – Adaptation & Refurbishment) completed in August 2022]. Officially reopened in September 2022 – the development now provides over 700 workpoints (with all workpoints populated with plug and play technology), and 70+ meeting and collaboration spaces – in a mixture of open-plan spaces, and dispersed ‘cellular’ step-back spaces – as well as wellness, refreshment facilities and large commercial cafeteria space. Works also included the creation of a new internal mezzanine floor; opening up of the internal walls of the existing industrial unit, to connect with the existing Sun Life office; the introduction of new external windows, doors and curtain walling (which incorporates an enhanced G-Value, to mitigate against overheating of the interior space); and also the addition of an external ‘casual work’ terrace area. The works were also delivered within a broader, live IDA site, as well as a live working environment inside Sun Life’s premises itself, where an agreed percentage of overall staff was catered for throughout the construction process.
In terms of green ratings (in the context of this project being limited to being a tenant upgrade to a leased building): Sustainable upgrades were applied to the building – including the installation of circa. 750sq.m. of photovoltaic panels – and the project has achieved and exceeded NZEB compliance (especially notable as it is a refurbishment project), and in excess of the current requirements outlined in the current Irish Building Regulations TGD Part L with regards to regulatory energy compliance in terms of adaptation and upgrade of ‘existing buildings’.
All materials, installations, and bespoke elements used throughout, have been assessed in terms of LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), low ‘VoC’ content (Volatile Organic Compounds), Cradle-to-Cradle characteristics, and their certifiability as sustainable materials, and a similar approach for the removal of existing materials was also reviewed (for example, manufacturer’s recycling certificates have been received for previous carpet tiles that occupied some sections, that were removed as part of the refurbishment) – while being practical, robust, and suitable for the specific application. We also consider that it is of paramount importance to ensure that a pleasurable and productive working atmosphere is created. The environments have been designed to promote the ‘Wellness’ of staff – and were developed through the exploration of layouts, materials, colour, high-quality installations and motivating interventions, and orientation, temperature, acoustics, and biophilic design principles – and lighting that has been evolved in-line with circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle modulated by external cues such as sunlight and temperature). Colour-selections have been made based both on their psychological properties, as well as creating a unique identity that is consistent with the Sun Life international branding guidelines. Ergonomic attributes have also been ensured including – adaptable furniture, such as sit-stand desks, static task and collaboration furniture, of various heights and sizes, to accommodate alternative uses. ‘Threadmill’ desk offices have also been included – and a multiple-purpose ‘Wellness Suite’ (including a gym) has been created. Plants and greenery punctuate the office spaces – giving an essential connection to nature, as well as providing air treatment in themselves – and the chosen carpet tiles (AirMaster) absorb residual contaminates from the air, and can then be simply hoovered out as part of regular maintenance. Improvements to accessibility have also been undertaken – ensuring access for all.