The multiple factors in modern design

Modern marina projects have an increasing range of important factors and considerations that need to be addressed through the marina design process. Mike Ward and Simon Goodhead of UK-based Marina Projects summarise issues and how they interface with traditional and typical design considerations.

Portonovi Marina in Montenegro was designed from the outset to achieve high levels of accreditation.

Portonovi Marina in Montenegro was designed from the outset to achieve high levels of accreditation.

There is often a complex matrix of considerations, with different clients placing emphasis on particular aspects of the scheme. In part, the reasons for these varying considerations are the specific drivers relevant to a particular client, making each design project unique. These differences, combined with factors such as the site conditions and the resulting design process, require a tailored approach.
We routinely consider the market conditions and influences at a particular site to establish the scale and nature of demand that can be anticipated. There must be a significant focus on the site conditions to establish the physical and environmental constraints and opportunities. Balancing these factors with the client’s vision and aspirations is at the heart of identifying the optimum marina design solution.
[p2]The same set of principles applies, whether for a simple marina reconfiguration and extension project or integrating the design of a marina into a new world-class waterfront development.
So, what are the main factors influencing marina design studies?
Marina accreditation
It is regularly a client requirement that the new marina must achieve (and even seek to exceed) industry recognised accreditation, such as The Yacht Harbour Association (TYHA) Gold Anchor Platinum Status. In some markets we are also regularly being asked to “break the mould” and do something exciting, something that has not been seen before. This is a clear signal that clients are pushing the industry to innovate.
[p3]There is undoubtedly a tension that arises with ambitious and lofty goals to push the boundaries when, at its heart, the most important aspect of any marina is that it must first and foremost provide a safe haven, a calm environment for leisure boaters and their boats. ‘Safe’ and ‘calm’ are not necessarily words that ambitious and driven clients want to hear. Striking the right balance between the traditional and innovative can provide for some healthy debate during the early design stages of a project.
Of course, ambition and innovation often come at a price, both directly in terms of infrastructure and capital expenditure, but also indirectly in terms of efficiency and utilisation of water space. Testing design concepts through business planning and viability modelling can both flush out the true aspirations and ambition of a client, but also help to identify the longer term commitment to deliver and maintain the necessary operational standards required to sustain the marina accreditation. As part of this process, there is often a natural filtering of elements that won’t have a meaningful bearing on the final marina product.
Key pillars of modern marina design are matters relating to sustainable design principles, products and working practices/operations, which are becoming increasingly important as awareness across the industry continues to improve and develop.
[p4]Sustainability essentially refers to “meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow” and can be mostly captured under three primary headings, environment; social; and economic. In broad terms, delivering projects to address matters arising under each of the three headings in a symbiotic and cohesive manner is pertinent to sustainable marina design.
There are many challenges that clients and operators can be presented with; particularly with existing marinas seeking to increase their ‘sustainable profile’. Examples include the introduction of sustainable working practices, such as ‘closed loop wash-down’ in boatyards, which can be both expensive in terms of capital investment and require regulatory approval, and converting traditional swing moorings that create scour on the seabed to more sustainable ‘eco moorings’ that are less proven in design terms and fundamentally will not increase the revenue generation. It is important to build a compelling argument to change needs to satisfy the primary sustainability headings. In simple terms, moving towards improved sustainable design requires a commitment from our clients and the marina industry to ensure that our sector continues to thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.
[p5]Programmes such as Clean Marina and Blue Flag are examples of leading industry initiatives that are providing the guidance and framework upon which operators can demonstrate their environmental awareness and underpin their credentials along with a commitment to ongoing improvement.
The international clean marina programmes typically consider the impact of marina operations on the water body, but historically there has been more of a focus in predominantly assessing marina operations through site management, environmental best practice and customer engagement. However, with the global focus on sustainability, emphasis is emerging on the design, technical specification and aesthetics of marina infrastructure, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the principles of sustainability can be delivered by the operating marina post-design.
Smart marinas
What is a smart marina and what is the role of design in achieving smart marinas?
The International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) Marina Group usefully defines a smart marina as “a marina that is first and foremost easily accessible by boaters and other stakeholders through digital platforms and physical data collection sources, such as interconnected sensors. It optimises operations through analysis of the collected data and adjusts them accordingly.”
More broadly, there is an observed potential to connect marinas with surrounding services of local community facilities, external service providers, and for smart marinas to be interconnected.
Similarly to achieving marina accreditation, it can be seen that the physical smart marina infrastructure and systems must be completely integrated with the ongoing marina operations. As the marina designer, communicating this essential link through to marina operations, even at the conceptual design stage, is of paramount importance.
[p6]Retaining that link all the way through the design, construction and implementation phases can be particularly challenging, not least because so often the larger waterfront development projects have a significant lifespan often of many years.
Design codes
The role of design codes in achieving marina accreditation, sustainable design and smart marinas is an interesting topic worthy of consideration.
On the face of it, there is a natural link between marina accreditation and the application of design codes but simply meeting the code will not achieve the accreditation standard because, quite rightly, the standard requires extensive consideration of how the infrastructure is applied in practice to deliver for the needs of the customer.
Accordingly, there is a significant role for operational procedures and processes in the accreditation assessment, and communicating this to our wide range of clients can present a challenge. At one end, marina operator clients are very familiar with the operating procedures, processes and requirements, but ambitious waterfront developers generally less so.
[p7]There is more that design codes can do to support the marina accreditation process, and it is also the case that design standards need to be brought up to date to take account of innovation and the changing marketplace. Undoubtedly, design codes also need to give more consideration to sustainability and smart marinas/technology.
Evolving customer profiles
The issue of sustainability in marina design and operation naturally leads to early consideration of tomorrow’s customer. That comes against a backdrop of changing boating trends both in terms of vessel propulsion but also user expectations. The advent and growth of boat clubs as a way of seeding customer interest certainly adds another user group to the consideration during market studies, and demand projections must provide for expansion of the marketplace and increasing vessel size as a result.
From start to finish
A consistent theme of the marina design detail, as outlined above, emphasises the need to dovetail with the final operational standards and procedures, particularly if accreditation, sustainability and smart marina objectives are to be realised. Experience shows that if the main factors described are not considered at early feasibility and concept design stages, it can be challenging to retrospectively redesign and incorporate key requirements into a client’s masterplan.
It is often the case that the wider development objectives and vision necessitate the requirement for exploring such initiatives, and maintaining that continuity through the life of a project and into the operational phase often calls for Marina Projects to take up a role as the marina champion or marina design guardian.
Evidence of the evolving nature of marina design and the matrix of design considerations is observed by the increasing recognition and request for us to retain ownership and coordination of the design throughout the life of the project. As the various delivery packages come forward, it is important to maintain and protect the overarching vision for the development, to ensure that the initial premise does not become diluted through ‘value engineering’ exercises that are often the result of internal and external influences and pressures.


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