King’s College London conducts research on several campuses located within central London, Guy’s Campus at London Bridge. This site contains a variety of research centres, the most recent being the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust (GSTT) Cancer Centre. Opened in late 2016, the centre contains clinical treatment facilities able to treat 6,500 patients per year, as well as modern research facilities. The aim of the centre is to bridge the gap between promising research and trialling this research in clinical settings. As part of King’s continued partnership with GSTT, the research oncology group (part of the King’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine) occupies one floor of the new centre and was previously located in the tower of Guys’ Hospital.
Lab manager Gianfranco Picco had a high level of involvement with managing the move and set-up of the new facility. Prior the centre being constructed, Gianfranco had enrolled his laboratory into the King’s Sustainable Labs programme and achieved a Bronze Award in 2015 and was devising ways to improve the operational efficiency of his laboratory.
He had observed inefficiencies surrounding how consumables were purchased in the laboratory, noting some users were purchasing £4,000 of plastics per month. Gionfranco said, “I started to think more actively around the topic after we were engaged to do the awards programme.”
Using the move as an ideal time to implement change, Gianfranco centralised purchasing of laboratory consumables. Procurement of reagents became centred around the activity or subject rather than the group or scientist. The effect was immediate, as the same group purchasing £4,000 reduced their costs to £2,500. Stocks no longer ran out during experiments as ordering was more predictive. As products were standardised, Gianfranco was able to negotiate discounts of 5-10% on most products, all of which directly benefitted the laboratory. Gianfranco said, “It started as a space saving project, but became a complete optimisation of how we procure.” The centralisation also includes chemicals, extraction kits and more.
In anticipation of the move, Gianfranco pursued further improvements to the sustainability and efficiency of the laboratories. Now installed in the new centre, the results are highly commendable and are summarised below:
- To begin all equipment was tendered with efficiency standards input from the King’s Energy Team, who informed the purchase and subsequent management of energy and space efficient cold storage. In particular, Gianfranco implemented ULT operational temperatures of the new freezers to be at -70C instead of -80C. While only 10 degrees, this will reduce energy consumption by 30% on what is the equivalent to the daily energy consumption of an average UK household.
- All freezers were correctly sized to permit the most efficient watts/litre efficiency, and all units are well maintained. Gianfranco also decided to reassess their autoclave practices, and realised that they were over-sterilising materials like PBS or new tip boxes. As such he was able to reduce the size of the autoclave for the new centre by 50%
- To ensure that the new equipment was to be correctly utilised, Gianfranco organised an equipment-training day where product managers all come to the lab and train staff and students on their relevant kit.
- Importantly, the new fume cupboards installed in the new centre are all set to ‘low-flow’, which minimises the amount of conditioned air expelled by the laboratory. Such variations on fume cupboard installations will save the building thousands in energy costs annually and help reduce the universities emissions of carbon dioxide.
- To reduce the amount of packaging going out through clinical waste streams, Gianfranco has staff and students open packaging outside the laboratory where feasible and ensure it leaves in appropriate waste routes.
- Sustainability and efficiency are now integrated into induction materials. This ensures that the good-practice implemented becomes common and will continue into the future.
Such actions are beneficial to the scientists as well as to the estate. They save energy and money, mitigate the environmental impact of the laboratory, but also reduce lag times and improve research quality. Evidence can be seen beyond the reduced procurement costs that while the new facility is smaller than previously, they are currently able to fit more researchers in it. Gianfranco said, “When we first came and saw the shelving and spaces, we were worried about how we would fit. However, since we have conducted the exercise in consolidation and optimisation, we’re able to fit far more than we expected. Everyone seems really happy with it now.”