CONTRACTORS will move on to the site of the massive new University of York campus today to begin the first phase of work.

York-based firm Shepherd Construction has been appointed by the university as the preferred contractor for the new Goodricke College, the first building on the Heslington East site.

The £25 million project, providing accommodation for 617 students and five staff in a mixture of houses and flats, marks the start of the first cluster on Heslington East, which will also comprise the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, the Department of Computer Science, the Creative Technologies Hub, and The York Law School and The York Management School.

Professor Brian Cantor, vice-chancellor of the university, said: “Shepherd Construction has played an important role in the development of York over the last 100 years, so it gives us great pleasure to appoint such a respected local company as the main contractor for the initial building of the university’s historic expansion at Heslington East.

“For a collegial university such as ours, it is entirely appropriate that the first building on Heslington East is a new college.”

The building will have good eco-credentials, after Shepherd’s in-house design team designed it to achieve a green rating of “very good”. Its features include a sustainable urban drainage system, where the surface water will be channelled down to a feature lake. Energy efficiency is also maximised, through heat recovery systems. The building also features a timber frame, which will be sourced from sustainable sources.

Students are due to move into the college in October 2009.

The current Goodricke College was opened in 1968, and is on the south-west side of the campus lake. It was named after the 18th-century deaf and mute astronomer John Goodricke, who lived in York.

It is home to the university’s maths department, and has about 650 undergraduate students, of whom 260 live in college accommodation.

The complete campus expansion project is expected to take at least a decade to complete. University bosses have said it will mean their twin complexes housing around 16,500 students by 2020 and the creation of 8,000 new jobs, with the result that York’s economy will be boosted by £185 million a year.