Learn more about MGAC's acquisition of RLF


Case Study: York St John University


Project/Client name: York St John University
Sector:  Public Sector – Higher Education

  • Project Management 
  • Cost Management 
  • Advisor to the Principal Designer
  • BREEAM compliance


Founded in 1841, York St John University has been delivering higher education for over 175 years on their Lord Mayor’s Walk campus in the heart of the city of York, close to York Minster.

The proposed Creative Centre provides a new heart and focal point for the university campus and included the demolition of the three existing 1960’s student accommodation blocks to open up the site.


Project Overview

The project design, project and cost managed by MGAC | RLF, meets all the specialist fit-out requirements as part of the main contract, including many acoustically complex recording and practice spaces and the theatre’s performance systems, such as:

  • production sound infrastructure and racking
  • production loudspeaker and amplification systems
  • mixing consoles – DSP and Dante network
  • wireless microphone systems
  • stage engineering systems including line hoists
  • production lighting infrastructure
  • production lighting controls systems – LED and Tungsten
  • assisted listening systems
  • masking and acoustic drapes etc


The new theatre/auditorium will support a broad range of performances, including multi-disciplinary and technology-driven creative collaborations and includes a fully-accessible technical/lighting/control level, allowing both the teaching of physically impaired students and a fully accessible facility for the use of visiting professional technicians and artists.

The project forms Phase 1 of potentially two phases on the development site, delivering 3,000 m² of teaching space, with the potential expansion to an additional 1,500 m² for further teaching space.

MGAC | RLF is now looking at four further feasibility projects as part of a wider university masterplan at York St John University.

Our Contribution

Robust scenario planning: The team faced some significant challenges on this project, and MGAC | RLF worked to ensure that each challenge was scenario tested and that adequate alternative options, plans and mitigation strategies were in place to overcome such challenges.

Budget-driven Design optimization: We successfully managed the early stages of the project from an architectural competition entry, based on a target base cost of £15m, through to engagement with the client.  It was then further clarified that the budget (and therefore brief) was required to fit within an overall base project cost of £15million inclusive of VAT (a 17% reduction in the effective budget), without any loss of focus, momentum or functionality. This was partially addressed by working with the design team to develop the atrium space into a more multi-functional and useful space that lifted it from a transitional space to one which added maximum value to the project.

Independent challenge: As part of our project management and cost management remit, we carefully managed the balance between being a contracted member of an architect-led multi-disciplinary team and being the independent advisor to the client. We provided an effective, independent challenge to both the client and the design team.

Focus on Sustainability: The University’s aspiration for this project has always been to achieve a highly sustainable solution, meeting or exceeding BREEAM ‘excellent’ accreditation. This aspiration was supported by the local authority through planning, so a rigorous focus on sustainability remained a constant challenge, check and balance from MGAC | RLF  in leading the project.

Value Engineering: Over the course of the project, we led the team through two significant rounds of value engineering, whilst maintaining an overall focus on delivering the vision of the master programme.  We achieved circa £1 million of mutually targeted and engineered savings with the preferred bidder at the post-tender stage, with no diminution of the client’s project objectives or the resultant BREEAM accreditation.


“RLF is the lead PM and QS for our flagship Creative Centre project and to date have done an excellent job.

Project Management is the team’s core skill and we have not been disappointed. The MGAC | RLF team have been extremely well organised and have led the rest of the consultant team with distinction. 

 Very good management…this is largely down to good risk management and early monitoring. The MGAC | RLF team have taken strong accountability for any issues that arose and have been proactive in resolving them.

 I would recommend MGAC | RLF in general and Ross Gates in particular. I am myself from a PM background and really rate Ross highly”.

Rob Hickey – Chief Operating Officer, York St John University



Get in touch

Ross Gates
E: ross.gates@rlf.co.uk
T: +44 (0) 20 7566 8400
M: +44 (0) 7973 490 890