During early fall, I developed a habit of walking around campus late at night with a number of my friends. While these late-night strolls serve the purpose of getting some fresh air and clearing my head, I couldn’t help but notice one thing that didn’t sit well with me. Most of the buildings had all of their lights on at times as late as 3 a.m., even though they were locked and no one was allowed to enter them.
I find it very ironic that while NC State encourages students to “hit the light switch when you’re the last person to leave a room” and “pull the plug on electronics not in use,” most of the academic buildings leave all the lights on throughout the night.
During the fall break, the D.H. Hill Jr. Library closed at 10 p.m. However, the lights were left on throughout the night, even on all eight floors of the Bookstacks. This is not an issue simply limited to fall break either. The library closes every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m. and the situation on those nights is the same.
Similarly, Fountain Dining Hall closes every day at 9 p.m., but the lights stay on continuously. The same can unfortunately be said for numerous academic buildings like Tompkins, Dabney, Caldwell and many others.
The only people entering these buildings late at night are the janitorial staff. However, I do not think it is necessary to leave all the lights on for this purpose. Numerous buildings on campus like Sullivan Residence Hall use motion sensor activated lights that turn on when someone enters the room and turn off automatically when the environment is not in use.
According to an article by NC State’s sustainability blog in 2014, “older, inefficient interior lighting systems were replaced with LED technology” in some buildings like the Constructed Facilities Lab, Park Alumni Center and the stairwells in Nelson Hall. Furthermore, according to the same blog, a senior design lab in the College of Textiles upgraded to occupancy motion sensor LED lighting in March 2017, saving “$4,200 annually in avoided energy costs, providing a return on investment in less than six years.”
This initiative should be continued such that most of the buildings on campus use motion sensor lights. In addition to conserving energy, it will also prove to be extremely convenient to use for students, faculty and staff alike.
I’ve heard an argument for leaving the lights on inside buildings to illuminate the streets for pedestrians to ensure their safety. However, I couldn’t disagree more with this claim. If safety is a concern, officials could leave the lights outside or near the edge of the buildings on so they’re illuminated, but it makes poor sense to leave them all on.
I recently wrote a column about how NC State needs to improve lighting on campus and think of methods to ensure the pathways are properly lit up. Instead of wasting energy and valuable natural resources by leaving the lights on inside buildings, if NC State invested the same amount of money and resources on improving outdoor lighting, it would be a significant step toward NC State’s development.
NC State has a relatively decent track record when it comes to being environmentally conscious. According to our sustainability website, NC State has reduced its energy use per gross square foot by 31% as of 2018, compared to the 2002 baseline. If NC State uses a few more strategies like the ones mentioned in this column and turns the lights out to minimize energy wastage, it will definitely be able to achieve its goal of “40% energy use reduction per gross square foot by 2022.” Otherwise, they’re just wasting resources.