Becoming a master at planning marinas

by Fabien Loy, Buro Happold
The process of creating a marina can be complex, and a wide range of parameters should be considered to make it fit into its local “habitat”. In developed countries with mature boating markets, most marina projects represent upgrades or extension works, while in regions like the Middle East, opportunities for greenfield projects are more common and lend themselves to becoming new visitor hubs and attraction centres.

Port de St Tropez in the South of France is an example of the ‘luxury’ typology in the Buro Happold concept

Port de St Tropez in the South of France is an example of the ‘luxury’ typology in the Buro Happold concept

The team at Buro Happold is well versed in the planning of waterfront developments, and has a strong portfolio of iconic international marina projects, including Hayle Harbour, Folkestone Harbour and Red Sea mega projects. Our strengths lie in the understanding of architect visions and client expectations, with the integration of technical experts at the early stages of the design (planning, infrastructure, environment, coastal engineering, mobility, advisory services and sustainability).
Working closely with our dedicated planning team has been an eye opener in terms of the benefits of using planning tools and benchmarks to support marina planning on land and in water. This different approach to the more traditional supply and demand assessment can unlock feasibility studies and help kick start the conversation with clients and stakeholders rapidly.
Marina typologies
Table 1

Table 1

The innovative approach we have developed as part of Middle East marina development projects is the concept of typology. While some consultants consider the siting of the marina (e.g. island, inland, exposed coastline, sheltered area), or the size of the marina, for instance small (<60 berths); medium (>60 and <260 berths); and large (>260 berths) as their key parameter, we focus on the marina strategy and its future upland use, guided by property and investment advisors.
From a large number of successful marinas worldwide, we defined six categories of marina typology as presented in the tables (Table 1). Each typology is represented by four to ten benchmarks matching the criteria set per typology in terms of key land use, activities proposed, marine facilities and existing berth mix. The selection process is being refined, and new benchmarks are constantly added to enhance our model based on discussions with operators and advisors.
Port Grimaud, France is a perfect example of ‘Residential’ marina

Port Grimaud, France is a perfect example of ‘Residential’ marina

Key indicator values have been extracted from the benchmarks to generate planning guidelines, as shown in table 2 where average values are adopted. Hillary’s Yacht Club is illustrated as a city hub example.
Starting from given project boundaries (water and land areas) and a typology selected by the client based on upland aspirations, the number of berths and landslide zoning allocations can then be determined using our defined ratio and percentages.
Saving space
The marina in the UAE fits the ‘Commercial’ typology. Photos: Fabien Loy

The marina in the UAE fits the ‘Commercial’ typology. Photos: Fabien Loy

Space is a key challenge as part of most planning exercises, to support the financial performance of a project and also to allow for sufficient circulation areas and suitable access. This is particularly true of brownfield projects where opportunities to increase site boundaries are usually limited. Trends for larger yachts and the need for better facilities and amenities lead to space constraints in areas which are often of high property value. Several opportunities can be considered as follows:
• Turning parking into a multi-storey car park or introducing an underground car park
• Incorporating a drystack to increase the total number of boats (provided sufficient land area is available)
• Smart mooring systems, such as Poralu’s Mobi-Deck grid system, an innovative mooring management system
• Placing some of the facilities and assets on piled structures or floating platforms (when water area is available)
The drystack option nowadays appears more and more frequently in projects, to reduce the size of the marina basin and offer more economical rates to users. Various solutions are available and new innovative concepts, such as Blue Ring and Automated Storage and Retrieval (ASAR) systems, are being tested and implemented across the globe to help meet growing demands. When brainstorming with a client, we started imagining a concept of a multi-purpose drystack, where part would be for boats and part for cars as an integrated solution for users.
Table 2

Table 2

Smart approach
Using our planning tool, with defined site boundaries and selection of typologies, we can rapidly start drawing the berthing area and the upland development. This tool is also being customised with other parties to assist in the generation of high-level cost estimates whereby, following the same process, project boundaries combined with a set typology can suffice to establish initial capital and operational costs as an order of magnitude. This model can therefore guide clients as part of feasibility studies by fast tracking the ‘optioneering’ process and testing different concepts.
Design guidelines (such as PIANC, Australian Standards and The Yacht Harbour Association Code) are key to validating the geometry of the berthing area once a marina option is taken forward.

Refined market analysis related to boating activities (with supply and demand assessment) and detailed property market studies still represent great tools to support clients further in their decision process and financial appraisal. This innovative methodology is seen as a different way to approach the challenge from a blank canvas where land and water combine from the start.
Fabien Loy, associate engineer at Buro Happold, is based in the Dubai office.


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