The need for mandatory academic laboratory sustainability training – a fume cupboard case study

Rabbab Oun, David Charles, Alaine Martin, Roddy Yarr, Molly Huq, Dean Drobot

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While scientific research is paramount to understanding the solar system, ecosystem, human disease and cures (etc) it continues to contribute to human-caused climate change. Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the carbon footprint associated with their research and recognise the need to work more efficiently with their resource use and laboratory operations.

University laboratories are spaces that allow for research to be carried out safely, however, they consume five times more energy per square meter than office buildings. Fume cupboards are amongst the most energy intensive equipment and thus are a dominant factor when working towards creating safer and greener laboratories. In this paper, we report on the gas, electricity, carbon and financial savings derived by upgrading 105 constant air volume fume cupboards to variable air volume systems. We also report on the frequency of fume cupboard use by research staff, postgraduate students, and their overall understanding of fume cupboard best practice operations. The results reflect that while savings were achieved, they were lower than predicted. A factor to this may be poor student and staff understanding of how fume cupboards work resulting in their incorrect usage, therefore hampering sustainable progression. This study highlights that a major gap exists between laboratory technical upgrades and researcher awareness of proper and safe equipment use and operation. To overcome this, we propose that in addition to health and safety training, mandatory laboratory sustainability operations training should be provided to all laboratory users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-71
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sustainable Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2023


  • fume cupboards
  • sustainable laboratories
  • climate change
  • laboratory results
  • sustainable labs training


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