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Case Studies

FlexiLab Fume Cupboards



Mach-Aire’s relationship with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) began many years ago when GSK engineers from the Stevenage site approached Mach-Aire to develop a relocatable fume cupboard. They were looking to collaborate with a manufacturer with knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry to help them achieve their targets.

The Problem

GSK were looking to establish a flexible laboratory that could be adapted quickly for a variety of research applications, or changed completely into offices to make better use of the space available. In doing so, they wanted to make the best return on investment by producing sustainable facilities. The flexibility both in use and relocation of the fume cupboard was of paramount importance.

The Solution

The FlexiLab range was pioneered in 2000 to incorporate a permanent and integral wheeled framework to all cabinets, enabling them to be easily moved into the required position without specialist handling equipment. The installation of the fume cupboard was one of the last operations before the facility was completed. This meant that it moved out of the high risk construction phase and became a final fix item. Since then, the model has been redeveloped and reviewed in response to feedback from GSK.

Redevelopments to the Mark 1 model over the last decade have included a reduction in the physical footprint of the cabinet, whilst maintaining the working space within the unit. This has enabled GSK to make better use of their existing laboratory space by increasing the number of units that can fit within the working environment. In addition, the embedded carbon content was reduced throughout the design process without compromising the performance of the unit. Other parallel activities have brought new operating criteria; that were required from the fume cupboard. These relate to lowering the inflow velocity at an open sash for variable volume cupboards and also greatly increasing the turndown for when the sash is closed. Incidentally these actions also generated fresh thinking in how GSK trained fume cupboard users and how they were tested periodically. These measures meant that ongoing fume cupboard usage that embraced these new standards supported the Stevenage site in achieving an 8% reduction in CO2e emissions.

GSK felt it was imperative to develop innovative solutions to drive energy efficiencies throughout the business and lower their carbon footprint. Mach-Aire worked extensively to reduce the airflow through the fume cupboard to bring about an extremely low and consistent energy usage, without compromising operator safety. All cabinets have been designed to operate safely at 0.3m/sec when the sash is raised to its full working opening. Operating at these or near to these levels, however, highlighted the importance of good lab design, maintenance, change control and operator training. The pay-off offers large energy reductions from existing laboratory facilities and improved working conditions in the lab as a result of lower air change rates. This is represented by a 40% saving over the original design flow rate of 0.5m/sec and where minimum flows have been optimised at 40L/sec.

After Care

Since 2000 Mach-Aire has installed over 300 units at the Stevenage site and we continue to support them with their ongoing development.

During the last decade, we have worked with GSK internationally to develop solutions; including projects in the UK, France, Croatia, Italy, Singapore and Shanghai.

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  • Pioneered the FlexiLab range of relocatable fume cupboards with GSK.

  • Installed over 300 units at the Stevenage site since 2000.

  • Achieved 8% reduction of Stevenage CO2e emissions.

  • Reduced the physical footprint of each fume cupboard.

  • Provided GSK with a flexible solution to make better use of their laboratory space.

  • Partnership with a leading global research & development organisation.

  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of the pharmaceutical industry.


"Our needs to develop lowest energy components for our laboratories have been supported by Mach-Aire Ltd, with new Fume Cupboard designs, construction and testing, all carried out in an open way, sharing knowledge."

Chris Stirling, Project Manager
GSK R&D Capital Projects

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