Digital technology for the design of modern marinas


Three-dimensional modeling with SketchUp and Lumion. Digital design technologies and drone-assisted visualizations. These are the tools of modern marina design.

Today’s waterfront facilities are far from simplistic. They must be designed and manufactured to withstand fluctuating environmental influences such as wind, waves, currents, seismic activity and ice while being attractive, accessible and safe. They must also provide services and amenities to satisfy a 21st century boating community looking for a “second home” type atmosphere. This curious fusion of planning, art, engineering and science benefits from the use of modern design technology – and the skills of professionals like landscape architects to take a project from concept to completion. reality.

Design concepts and standards
During the design phase, landscape architects work directly with marina management to determine the scope of the project: general marina layout, inner harbor structures, number and size of slipways, to water and parking, walkways, facilities and shore support services, utilities and the general aesthetics of the marina.

In the design phase, they use a few manuals: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Small Craft Harbors Planning and Design Guidelines – Practice Book 50 – as well as Marinas and Small Craft Harbors from Tobiasson and Kollmeyer, and work with civil, coastal, structural and geotechnical engineers to achieve recommended standards. These standards greatly inform design parameters and help ensure sound engineering, safe functionality and a durable life cycle. They address project elements such as fairway and channel width and depth, layout of navigation lines, breakwater requirements, placement of wave attenuators, as well as design, impacts of load and performance metrics for fixed docks, floating docks and walkways – with an in-depth study and understanding of local conditions such as hydrodynamics, potential flood levels, water circulation and flow patterns. sedimentation.

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MSA’s waterfront experts developed a waterfront master plan for Dillon Marina, which paved the way for a host of marina improvements, then created a complementary study of the center’s walkability -town of Dillon to intertwine downtown and waterfront areas. The goal is to stimulate multimodal accessibility and strengthen the community’s reputation as a recreational destination.

Digital renderings and 3D models
Once the aforementioned infrastructure plans are in place, a landscape architect or other design professional can now begin to integrate form with function. Enter, design technology. Digital design tools are used to create, model and modify marina renderings. This helps marina management, boat owners and club members visualize project concepts, alternative layouts, building materials, color palettes, landscaping, pathways and connectors, accessories, green areas, recreation areas and facilities equipment. And helps create time and space for comments, changes or new ideas – long before construction, saving time and money.

Drone photography is valuable during this stage and can provide the design team with images and video of the proposed marina from various vantage points. From there, designers start creating digital templates of the site. First in 2D in programs like AutoCAD, then in 3D through modeling software like SketchUp where project elements such as piers and docks are integrated.

Once the infrastructure is modeled in SketchUp, it turns into architectural 3D rendering software like Lumion. Here, photos taken by the drone are uploaded and renderings of the marina are spatially matched to the approximate perspective and focal length of the actual photographs. The designer can also place a virtual light source in the render to mimic the location and angle of sunlight shown in the photo. This allows for a perfectly aligned representation of light and shadow that can be adjusted and rendered to show what a finished project might look like at different times of day – or even under moonlight. Lumion is also where aesthetic elements can be added and modified: colors, textures, vegetation or examples of different materials such as wood or concrete. The options are limited only by the imagination, so marina management has the flexibility to explore even the craziest color combinations or experiment with the latest trends in materials, styles and finishes. accessories.

Finally, the 3D rendering produced in Lumion is integrated into a graphic editing program like Photoshop where the proposed elements are superimposed on the photograph to merge them with the existing conditions. Here the designer adds the finishing touches to match colors, light, shadows and textures.

Design technologies such as Lumion can also be used to determine space and design requirements for ground support facilities such as roads, parking lots and storage lots. In this application, 3D renderings can be animated to show how vehicles and towed boats move and maneuver around the site. They can help illustrate turning movements and describe precise turning radii for different lengths of vehicles and trailers, which is essential for developing or expanding travel routes, parking areas and lay-off areas. water and salvage boats. As interest in recreational boating continues to grow – as does the actual size of boats – this technology is proving invaluable in the design and construction of safe, easy-to-navigate marinas and complementary systems ashore.

The value of design technology
There are other efficiencies achieved by using digital tools in the design process. These tools are meant to help customers think big while maximizing value. In the world of marinas, water is the most precious thing, and every inch of it has monetary value. 3D models help visualize the best use of available space.
They also help marinas fill market gaps and meet demand for amenities, whether it’s offering a wider variety of ramp sizes or a new range of modern conveniences and comforts – this that makes today’s marina industry so competitive. On-site restaurants and bars, boardwalks, retail, warehouses, pedestrian and bike routes, broadband, boat repair facilities, general stores, laundromat, showers, fish cleaning stations, picnic and grilling areas, swimming pools, etc. Any idea can be incorporated and illustrated in project renderings to aid in the decision-making process.

A higher level of modeling can also bring value to entrepreneurs. As we see the application of design technology in the construction industry increasing, more and more contractors are asking for digital designs in a certain fashion. Why? Because working from 3D models gives entrepreneurs precision and control. This can shorten construction time and save on rework and material costs. If contractors know they have access to a quality model from the start of the project, clients can see this reflected in the form of lower prices during construction tenders.

For the Milwaukee Yacht Club, the MSA design started as an existing photograph (far left), evolved to proposed structures (middle left), then to realistic quality (middle right), and finally like the combined final render (far right).

There is also graphic value in being able to share and communicate with local stakeholders what a new marina or waterfront facility might look like. A 3D model or rendering is a powerful marketing tool and can tip the scales when it comes to selling boat slips or convincing boat owners that the return on investment is good.

The Yacht Club of Milwaukee
The Milwaukee Yacht Club is the oldest premier yacht club on Lake Michigan, located in the heart of the city at McKinley Marina. With a reputation for lively camaraderie and sophisticated marina amenities, this club currently offers 64 slides ranging from 30 to 90 feet, with a waiting list of interested members ready to join.

MSA’s 3D rendering of a new floating dock system at the Milwaukee Yacht Club illustrates a variety of bilge sizes and a wide sailing channel to accommodate member vessels and non-powered boats of the club’s learn-to-sail programs .

A marina on one of the Great Lakes presents its own set of challenges, with big water activity, wind and wave events, ice, and fluctuating water levels. In 2020, extreme flooding damaged the club’s aging fixed dock system. The club asked MSA waterfront designers and landscape architects to design a new floating dock system, with increased capacity and improved utilities to meet growing demand. Using drone photography and 3D modeling software SketchUp and Lumion, MSA designers created custom renders for the proposed project, as well as potential new onshore benefits and services to consider. The designs have allowed MSA to help the Milwaukee Yacht Club maximize its valuable water park and organize the slides in a way that conserves space while accommodating an influx of larger watercraft in the future, while providing a safe boating experience and a pleasant marina ambience.

Modern marinas deserve modern technologies. Digital design allows them to exceed operational standards and revolutionize what is possible in form and function. Whether renovating an existing marina or planning a new one, the tools and talents of today’s design professionals make it possible to achieve something extraordinary.

Dan Williams, PLA, ASLA, AHLP is a Senior Landscape Architect at MSA. You can reach him at [email protected] Luke Geiger, PLA is a landscape architect at MSA. You can reach him at [email protected]


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