An expansion and refurbishment of Sun Life’s HQ, carried out by C.J. Falconer & Associates, is being used by the financial services firm as a flagship ‘Future of Work’ development

Sun Life is a global financial services company that helps its 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. The Canadian firm has been operating in Waterford for over two decades and C.J. Falconer & Associates Architects (CJFA) assisted them in establishing their first offices in Ireland and worked on a number of projects with Sun Life throughout that time. This includes having previously undertaken a successful refurbishment and extension project for the Sun Life European Headquarters, IDA Industrial Park, Waterford, 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 between CJFA & Sun Life 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’ – which would meet different uses and include a variety of collaboration and meeting spaces, fitted-out with various adaptable and static workpoints, facilities and audio-visual systems.

Construction began at the end of October 2021 and was delivered in a two-phase, swift process. 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 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.

Sustainable upgrades were applied to the building including the installation of circa 750sq m of photovoltaic panels. The project has achieved and exceeded NZEB compliance (especially notable as it is a refurbishment project) and is in excess of the current requirements outlined in the Irish Building Regulations TGD Part L, with regards to regulatory energy compliance in the 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. 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. CJFA believes it’s 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, orientation, temperature, acoustics and biophilic design principles. 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 and 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. 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.

Architects & Project Managers: C.J. Falconer & Associates Architects Quantity Surveyors: Nolan Construction Consultants
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer: Geaney Engineering Consultants
Structural & Civil Engineer: Frank Fox & Associates
Fire & Universal Access: GSP Fire
Main Contractor: Nevin Construction
Mechanical & Electrical Contractor: Emcor
Furniture Supplier: OfficeMaster
Photography: Daithi Taylor



Michael McDonnell – Managing Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine & Plan Magazine


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