Why do laboratories matter?
The University is an internationally recognised centre for a wide range of research. Each discipline requires specific equipment, facilities, staff, materials, and often specially engineered buildings. All of this can be extremely consuming in terms of finances and energy.
The funding for a single research laboratory can be very complex, with Estates and Buildings often covering utility costs and various funding agreements imposing different requirements. This can remove the incentive to make things better, as there is no direct financial reward to the laboratory.
With there being such a variety of possible barriers, encouraging laboratories to improve sustainability and efficiency is a delicate task. Many researchers will attest to there being great scope for improvement, as regularly verified during conversations with research associated employees from across the UK at S-Labs conferences.
In 2012 the SRS Sustainability awards recognised the highly specialised nature of laboratories, and thus introduced a laboratories award customised for research centres. Several labs entered the Lab Awards category, but overall participation was low.
In 2013 the University partnered with S-Labs and the Scottish Funding Council to introduce Martin Farley to facilitate and improve the awards, as well as asses labs and share good practices from research labs from universities across Scotland (Napier, Strathclyde, Glasgow, and Aberdeen all participated in the pilot project).
This pilot project has led to the revamped lab awards, with a more rigorous and extensive process as well as a full-time position being created to focus solely on research laboratories.
With there being great potential in the field, we hope that all research facilities on campus will soon participate in the lab awards. Furthermore we hope to facilitate the sharing of good practices not only between labs and schools, but between Scottish and further UK institutions.
In late 2014 Martin moved onto a role in King's College London and Andrew Arnott was hired to replace him.
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.