skip to content

MRC Cancer Unit


Energy and Environment



At the MRC Cancer Unit, based in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, we are committed to minimising the impact of our activities on the environment. Additionally, by enhancing the energy saving culture and reducing costs, we are protecting the budget allocated for cancer research. We have many processes in place and have undertaken a range of initiatives to meet this aim, such as our environmental policy which outlines the scope of activities that support specific environmental objectives.


The Hutch Green Team

Our ‘Green Team’ is made up of enthusiastic scientists plus support staff and has the desire to influence, as well as the authority to implement. A number of initiatives have been coordinated by the team to improve behaviour and nurture an ever-improving culture.


The Hutchison/MRC Research Centre building

Our building has features specifically designed to reduce its impact on the environment. It is airtight to reduce energy loss and has a higher than normal insulation value. Following transition into the University in 2012, our building management system was upgraded to enable better visibility, and in 2013 we were successful in gaining funding for a demand ventilation control system University's Environment and Energy website.

The graph below shows baseline airflow through a laboratory being reduced from 940L/s to 210L/s once the demand ventilation control system was switched on, Monday 07/05/13. Rates only increase on demand, ie due to occupation or in response to detected 'pollutants'. (green = weekend). Building pressure regimes and temperature control were unaffected.



                                    Lab 4.5 Feedback Metric 02/05/2013 – 13/05/2013

                            Contrasting Green areas 05/05 before DVC switch on, and after 12/05

The graph below shows total gas consumption was reduced by 41% and electricity by 9%, saving more than £67,000 per annum and reducing carbon emissions by 422 tonnes per annum.


Lighting project

Our extensive Lighting Project was completed in 2018 through joint University and MRC funding. The building now has LED “smart” lighting forecast to save an estimated 223,441 kWh of energy, reducing the CO2 emission by 79 tonnes per year, and dramatically reducing the frequent tube changes and resulting landfill waste.


Polystyrene and other recycling



In addition to a wide range of recycling in laboratories, which has been best practice since 2008, the Centre processes polystyrene packaging and cold boxes ready for recycling using the Styromelt instrument. As a biomedical research centre, we receive large quantities of this packaging which required regular skip usage. The Syromelt saved on skip hire costs and environmental impact, as well as creating more space for cycle racks! An article about this appeared in the University's Greenlines newsletter.






Frozen storage, autoclaves and drying



With support from the University’s Energy and Carbon Reduction Project we have taken steps to upgrade energy-intensive equipment to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in key areas of frozen storage, autoclaving and oven drying

We have a rolling programme to replace older less efficient ultra low temperature (ULT) storage units and maintain these at -70oC rather than the more common -80 wherever possible. To improve the security of samples at this higher temperature, we are currently upgrading our freezer monitoring system, and in 2019 we will refurbish a room, creating a new location optimised for ULTs. 






 In 2017 we undertook extensive research to identify replacement autoclaves. In 16 years there had been significant advancements in autoclave design. Current day equivalents are smaller, faster and much more energy efficient. The Systec model has been optimised to have a reduced footprint and provides significant energy and water savings which is in line with the Centre’s priorities. This was essential in our achieving the welcome contribution to our funding from the University’s Energy and Environment Office.


We have also replaced a 16 year old drying cabinet for a model optimised for efficiency based on development work involving VWR, Genlab and the Department of Chemistry.



Hutchison/MRC building awards and culture

In 2014 the Centre achieved the Green Impact Silver and Silver Labs Awards, in the University's environmental accreditation scheme.



The Demand Ventilation Control initiative resulted in the Centre being shortlisted in 2014 for a S-Labs Laboratory Environmental Improvement Award, and becoming a finalist in the 2014 EAUC Green Gown Award for Technical Innovation.


New ideas and innovations are a constant in our environment and the Centre is always open to ideas, actively seeking ways to further reduce the negative impact of our activities. To this end we aim to nurture a culture whereby we have a shared environmental responsibility, encouraging suggestions and enthusiastic support from every individual.




Our most recent addition to our wide-ranging efforts has been to recycle used pens as part of a wider University initiative.




What can I do?

Detailed guidance can be found here or please seek out members of the Hutch Green Team and Lab Management for support.