Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Awards themes

The lab awards are divided into 9 different themes. Only the first eight are required for a Bronze or Silver award, you must complete a minimum of five Bonus criteria in order to qualify for a Gold award.

Joseph Black Building (awarded Silver lab award 2016)
Joseph Black Building (awarded Silver lab award 2016)

Fume cupboards and Biosafety Cabinets

Often overlooked, fume cupboards typically cost £1,000 or more (sometimes over £2,000) in running costs alone, including the expulsion of heated or cooled air, and are the main element of energy consumption in laboratories. Actions to reduce this consumption can often be more effective than any others from an environmental perspective, and can incur significant financial savings.

Cold storage

Cold storage devices are highly energy intensive – they can account for up to 5% of total laboratory energy consumption, and also create indirect consumption because extracting waste heat often requires additional cooling from ventilation air. Furthermore ever growing storage needs coupled with high researcher turnover often results in constantly increasing freezer numbers, frequently resulting in costly loss of research floor space.

Chemicals and gases

Many chemicals and gases are environmentally damaging, and their production, management and disposal can be costly as well as energy intensive. Minimising consumption and ordering while disposing of them carefully, therefore has environmental and financial benefit, as well as conforming to good health and safety practice and raising awareness amongst students and new researchers.

Scientific equipment

Scientific equipment can be a significant proportion of laboratory electricity consumption – up to 30-40% or higher in some labs. More efficient equipment, better controls or better appropriation of equipment can result in large savings for a laboratory or building.


Laboratories often use 2-3 cubic metres of water a year per square metre of space. The supply of treated potable water has a substantial environmental impact, reducing this has many benefits including financial savings.

Waste and Recycling

As well as chemical waste, labs create large amounts of solid waste, including equipment at the end of its useful life, packaging, and consumables. Reducing this not only has environmental benefit but can also reduce disposal costs, and in some cases, avoid purchases because items can be reused.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

The equipment producing, circulating and controlling the treated air for a laboratory is often the single largest energy user of the whole building. It is responsible for producing a comfortable working environment for all building users. Lab users must be aware of how their actions can influence the HVAC system and the energy it consumes, as well as fault reporting processes.


Despite being a small energy consumer when compared to the scale of ventilation and equipment in laboratories, there are often opportunities to use improved controls, use more energy efficient fittings and to modify lighting levels (which are sometimes over-specified by designers) so that they are appropriate to needs. Natural lighting is also associated with positive morale and productivity, as well as saving energy.

Awareness and training

Environmental improvement is greatly aided when there are clear responsibilities, and when there is effective training and raising of awareness.

Learn more about the awards

You can learn more about the awards, or you can get in touch with Andrew Arnott with any questions you have.

Andrew Arnott

SRS Projects Coordinator (Labs)

Contact details


  • Andrew graduated from University of Aberdeen in 2006 and spent 18 months working in an environmental management role. Moving to Edinburgh at the end of 2007 he took up a role providing energy efficiency and renewable energy advice to businesses on behalf of the Energy Saving Trust. In 2010 he spent 9 months volunteering in Malawi, setting up environmental projects. Returning to the UK in 2011 he took a role in a consultancy firm providing energy efficiency, renewable energy and resource efficiency advice to public and private sector clients.