Constantine College has caused confusion after seeming to have well lit indoor spaces throughout the night despite the fact it is currently unoccupied, clocking up countless hours of what some people believe to be unnecessary waste.
The College was first seen illuminated on 30 July, and kitchens and bedroom lights in accommodation blocks of up to five floors have reportedly been left on every night since. There were no signs of activity or work being conducted on the grounds during these times.
In the past, Constantine has said that it will follow the University’s strategic aims, including provisions to support student well-being, increasing employability, and fostering a community for its culturally diverse student population.
However, one of these aims refers to the University’s ethical vision that seeks to “undertake and act on regular assessments of our environmental impact” whilst “ensuring financial viability”, which the recent electrical management seems to conflict with.
The Constantine College Team has been in place since 1 August under former Derwent College Provost Rob Aitken, with Derwent Facilities Management (DFM), a £22m business that has a range of clients including other universities and local government properties across the UK, continuing their maintenance contract with the University. The company, which also provides services for Goodricke and Langwith, states on their website: “We have significant experience in both the public and private sector and of driving out inefficiencies to produce outstanding results for our clients.”
The University of York is currently part of the Green Impact Programme, an NUS accreditation and awards scheme, and is ranked 2nd in the UK for its ecology and environmental science research. It was also praised for the tree-planting programme that was undertaken on Heslington East, which was regarded as the largest scheme of its kind by any UK university.
However, this is not the first time the University has come under fire for unsatisfactory sustainability actions. In 2011, a report published by the University of York Sustainability Forum lambasted the University for a severe lack of performance measurements and targets for numerous sustainability issues and described it as “not hav[ing] given any indication of a strong commitment to sustainability”.
When asked about the lights in Constantine College, a University of York spokesman told Nouse: “The site is currently run by the contractor not the University, so any decisions about lighting and energy costs lie with them. We have been told that the lighting systems, particularly in the kitchens, have been on test recently, while lights to staircases have been left on for the safety and security of their patrols. In addition, in the absence of external lighting, some bedroom lights have been left on at night in the interests of building security. The contractor is expecting the external lighting to be fully commissioned this week, and says that once active, bedroom lights will be switched off.”
Cat Santini, Chair of Constantine College, added: “There are lots of reasons why the contractor would leave the lights on: for example, it might be that they are trying to ensure that everything is ready and fully functional for the students when they arrive. This kind of testing was something that was overlooked with the heating in new Langwith, and when it was first opened students were complaining about the facilities not working properly. I guess that they’re just trying to prevent the same thing from happening again. Nevertheless, I will contact Estates immediately to see if they can get the contractor to minimise any unnecessary power usage. Since Constantine was constructed in the most green way of any college at York to date, and will be known amongst the students as the most eco-friendly college, we would all like to keep this aspect of it as consistent as possible.”