Maximize the Value of your Marina Project

Posted on by RComstock
Calypso Bay Marina, Australia

One of the most economical ways to create value in a pile anchored floating dock system is to balance the strength of the piling system with the strength of the dock system.

Marina construction projects are a costly endeavor, and at the end of the day all marina owners and developers want the same thing – they want to know they’ve received the best value for their money.  They want a marina that isn’t riddled with unnecessary costs, and they want a dock system that meets or exceeds their expectations for quality and performance.


Value Engineering is a term used frequently in the construction industry.  Unfortunately, it has come to mean different things to different people and is often misused.  In the true sense of the word, value engineering is a systematic method used to improve the “value” of something by examining its function and analyzing its function to cost ratio.  To be done effectively, it requires intimate knowledge and a high level of understanding of the processes and /or engineering that went into the original system or product in order to make the judgment calls required to effectively improve its value without compromising the function or characteristics deemed important by the user.

Using the systematic method employed in value engineering, value can be increased by either improving function or eliminating unnecessary cost.  Unnecessary cost is cost that provides neither use, nor life, nor quality, nor appearance, nor customer features.  One of the primary principles of value engineering is that the basic function of the item or system being analyzed must be preserved and not be diminished as a consequence of cost reduction.


A public marina in Bellingham, Washington offers a perfect example of how value engineering can be applied to a marina project.  The original specifications that went out to bid called for the construction of a pile supported floating concrete dock system.  The bid called for the use of 137 octagonal piles to anchor 184 double berth slips ranging in length from 30’ to 56’.  Pile sizes included a mix of 16.5”, 18” and 24”.

In the design of a marina every finger pier as well as the main walkway must have the strength to stand on its own.  The most economical way to create value in this scenario is to balance the strength of the piling system with the strength of the dock system.  Systematically strengthening specific areas of the dock system allows the dock to absorb and distribute loads to piling in the most efficient manner.  Simply put, the closer a design can get to using the full strength of all the piles the more efficient it will be and the fewer piles it will require.

Many designs have piles that are not fully utilized because the dock system is not strong enough to transmit the loads to farther reaching piles.  This results in the need for additional piles in locations where loads will be far less than the strength capacity of the pile.  While it is impossible to design a marina where every pile is fully utilized, a strong dock system coupled with an experienced engineer can go a long way toward maximizing the potential of the system and minimizing the number of required piles.

When Bellingham Marine reviewed the bid specification for the Washington State project, the company saw an opportunity to clean up the look of the marina and save the owner some money by offering a value engineered pile design.  Bellingham’s approach was to utilize the strength of its Unifloat system to remove a number of piles from key locations and to completely eliminate use of the large 24” pile.  The company’s final pile design called for 88 pile (a mix of 16.5” and 18”), and resulted in 46% less pile than originally specified.   By providing a stronger dock system, Bellingham was able to offer a solution that met the specified performance criteria, improved the appearance of the marina and reduced the cost of the project.


Another good example can be seen in a marina designed for the City of Sacramento in California.  Interested in replacing the marina’s covered floating docks in their north basin, the City issued an RFP.  Unfortunately, during the first round of bids the two qualified bidders came in $2 million over the City’s budget.  So, the City decided to issue a 2nd RFP, this time stating they would entertain cost-saving changes in the design.  Bellingham Marine devoted considerable time and effort into value engineering the project to find a solution for the City that would meet their budget and the needs of their boaters – the result, a winning bid for the company.

Bellingham Marine applied its design-build process and came up with five changes to the original specifications that kept the original scope of work intact.  They stayed with high-quality, long-lasting concrete floating docks but substituted an 18-inch diameter steel piling for a 24-inch square, pre-stressed concrete piling. Bellingham Marine further reduced costs with its design for attaching the roof posts.  The innovative solution eliminated a lot of cross bracing, and a lot of steel.  Bellingham Marine’s solution allowed the City to build the marina they wanted with the funds they had available without compromising quality, function or performance.


How can you be sure you’re getting a marina that offers the best value?  The key is to find a company that specializes in site specific design and can deliver a true value engineered solution. Look for a company with exceptional experience, one that operates within a large network of industry leaders, and has a proven track record for delivering one of a kind, not off the shelf solutions.  A company that does things the same way they have always been done leaves no room for new more efficient, innovative or money saving ways.

Likewise, a company that offers alternatives through conventional cost reduction methods is not offering a value engineered solution. Value Engineering should not be a cost-cutting exercise. In the words of John Ruskin, “It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money— that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the work it was bought to do.”

Used correctly, value engineering can be a powerful tool for reducing costs and improving the value of your marina.  Used incorrectly, it can leave you with something that is incapable of performing as desired.

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