KCL LEAF Case Study: Fume Cupboard Competition and Equipment Sharing Leads to Big Savings at Britannia House
Jordan Guthrie, Martin Farley
Britannia House houses a growing Chemistry Department at King’s College London. Within Britannia House sits Jordan Guthrie, who has been a technician in the department since December 2016. Jordan, having participated in KCL’s previous Sustainable Lab Awards, was interested by the LEAF pilot and signed up targeting a Silver in the first year. He organised and led the technical teams to start to implement various criteria from the LEAF tool, whilst using it to estimate the carbon and financial savings which resulted. What stands out about Jordan’s work though, are the unexpected outcomes from implementing LEAF in the department.
LEAF contains criteria which ask users to establish a means to ensure fume cupboard sashes are kept closed when not in use, this is particularly important for the variable air volume models which Britannia House possesses. A fume cupboard can consume more energy than a house through loss of conditioned air along with the fans required to facilitate this process. This energy consumption can be reduced by at least 50% by simply closing the sash of the cupboard, which reduces the volume of air being expelled. Sometimes though users don’t close the sashes when their work is done, resulting in significant waste of energy. Looking at this, Jordan decided to engage with staff in a positive manner by running a “close the sash competition”, and incentivising the winners with pizza!
To ensure people were on board with the initiative, Jordan engaged with users about the impacts of leaving the sashes open. He ran the competition over a course of a month, and recorded when sashes left open at the end of the day. The results were stark – Jordan observed a 25% increase in sash closure. Using LEAF to estimate impact, Jordan and the team’s efforts will save £14,850 per annum in energy costs!
Jordan and the team didn’t rest their laurels on this achievement, while implementing LEAF, other members of the technical team, Vicky Snowden and Mark Withers, identified 6 bio-safety cabinets which were in line to be disposed of. A typical bio-safety cabinet new can cost £7,000 or more, and while the existing units were old, they were still functioning. Rather than a potentially costly disposal, the department managed to rehouse 4 units within the college through the technical network, and even sold a fifth unit at a profit. The final unit was disposed of as it was beyond repair.
In implementing LEAF, Jordan and the team were able to achieve fantastic savings. While some of the savings will derive directly from criteria within the tool, some of the greatest impact have simply originated from empowering of the team to consider sustainability of the department. Technical staff like Jordan will always understand their environment best, and as such be best placed to innovate and implement solutions in efficiency and sustainability.