A/B Jetty Project – 3D Modeling and Collaboration in Marine Construction

28 March 2024BIM, Collaboration, Construction, Digital Transformation, Structural design3D Model, advance design, communication, concrete, Coordination, innovation, prefabrication, revit, risk mitigation, structural engineering



Design of temporary work requires a combination of imagination and precise planning when working with complex structures in harsh environments. Such was the case with the underwater and above water construction involved in the A/B Jetty Project, located in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As described in the 2024 Innovate2Build (I2B) session, “Revolutionizing Marine Construction with Advance Design: The A/B Jetty Recapitalization Project,” creativity plus meticulous planning were needed for successful construction in the unforgiving marine environment. Cutting edge technologies, including Autodesk Revit and GRAITEC Advance Design, were used to design a major falsework structure that needed to be constructed beneath the ocean waves, creating a monumental concrete pile cap.

Canadian Royal Navy ship, 3D modeling and collaboration in marine construction of jetty

The A/B Jetty Project was part of the Canada National Shipbuilding Strategy. It modernized the dockyard waterfront on the southern tip of Vancouver Island so it would accommodate Royal Canadian Navy ships over the next 30 years. Tonnage of modern ships is about twice that of previous ships berthed there, so the project design had to assure load capacity, water depth and other requirements.

3D Modeling Helped

Revit was used to develop a large 3D model of the project, which was placed into Autodesk 3D Viewer and shared with all parties involved. Pier-Luc Tremblay, Team Leader of Pomerleau Temporary Works, demonstrated during the webinar how team members could view the modeled structure from all angles. Divers, for instance, could view from an underneath perspective. Using the virtual representation, they could take measurements and look for potential conflicts. Pier-Luc said, “That was one of the biggest helps we could have. That’s how 3D modeling can help in construction. Everyone could understand instantly what’s happening.”

Pier-Luc explained that a large, comprehensive model like the one for the A/B Jetty Project takes shape through collaboration from the beginning of design. It shows what the project will look like and how it will be designed.

The team members used GRAITEC Advance Design to develop the bill of materials, as well as color code portions of the model: steel design, load combinations, displacement calculations, hardware, and components. The work sequence could be shown and the model tested. Adjustments could be made and results determined with a single click. With Advance Design, all load combinations could be added to the model at once, saving time. Pier-Luc described this benefit as “incredible,” considering the tide tables the project was working around.

Manage and operate projects in a smoother, insightful, more cost-effective way. Discover the all-in-one FEA/FEM software for structural engineers: GRAITEC Advance Design.

Importance of Collaboration

Coordination and open communication were key to the project. Weekly internal technical meetings were held with the superintendent, project managers and team representatives to ensure delivery of a uniform message. Pier-Luc stressed this was especially critical during creation of formwork at the beginning, because it had to exactly match the falsework. Work planning was key.


The objective of the $743-million project was to replace the 70-year-old jetties. That involved design of the new jetty area, demolition of existing structures, and subsequent construction of the new structures. Throughout ongoing activities, the contractor had to maintain existing services.

In addition to the Royal Canadian Navy and its consultant, multiple parties were involved in the project to cover formwork, deep foundation, and falsework (support for concrete forms). The Pomerleau portion of the project included:

  • extending the utility corridor,
  • dredging the seabed,
  • demolishing B Jetty,
  • preparing the site,
  • constructing the new B Jetty portion.

During the I2B session Pier-Luc explained the size equivalent of Pomerleau’s segment of the project included about 43 truckloads of concrete. He said, “It required a lot of formwork . . . it was a big challenge.”

Royal Canadian Navy Esquimalt base, 3D modeling and collaboration in marine construction of jetty


Project teams had to contend with three primary constraints.


    • Work in the marine environment involved barges and divers.
    • Significant tidal variation affected when and how work could proceed.
    • Salt water is heavier than fresh water, affecting the stability of formwork and falsework. (This was simulated using Advance Design.)


    • The high cost of working in a marine environment was inevitable, including divers and a crane barge.
    • The last bent (self-supporting concrete frame with one or more columns) was a crucial milestone in the work sequence.
    • The last bent was different than the other bents; if problems emerged, there would be a higher risk to mitigate them.


    • The formwork and deep foundation were designed by other parties, which required additional communication.
    • The falsework from the foundation portion was reusable, so structural components had to be checked and verified.
City of Vancouver waterfront at sunset, 3D modeling and collaboration for construction in a marine environment

Vancouver waterfront

Brainstorming Solutions

The divers worked underwater in low visibility, with much work done by hand. Teams brainstormed ways to minimize the amount of work that had to be done in place. Prefabricated parts formed one solution: bolted and mechanical assemblies were preferred to minimize onsite welding. “Everything you can install dry costs less and saves time,” Pier-Luc explained.

To optimize the falsework, brainstorming again resulted in the decision to reuse the drilling template on temporary piles, headers and girders. Modular platforms were used to directly support workers, formwork and concrete. The formwork was also stabilized from above. Pier-Luc said this saved a lot of steel and reduced complexity.

To avoid site conflicts, falsework and formwork were assembled dry on a barge. The positions for build-in-place piles were surveyed in advance before cutting sealing plates.

Other Design Considerations

Over two years of phase 2, B Jetty was demolished, then over 1.4-million cubic feet of the seabed was dredged. A wastewater treatment plant and holding tanks were moved to a temporary location. The road was realigned with a changed slope, and a new jetty services building was constructed, all before construction of B Jetty, which was lengthened by 33% to achieve more berthing space.

Phase three included demolition and reconstruction of A Jetty.


The B Jetty portion was delivered in 2019. The installation sequencing was prepared using Revit. Pier-Luc explained that going from design to construction onsite was gratifying – everything worked out to fit within 1/8-inch tolerance.

By using Revit and Advance Design, Pomerleau was able to showcase innovation at its best. The software enabled the contractor and all the A/B Jetty Project teams to transcend the formidable task of working with complex structures in the harsh, unforgiving marine environment.

Click HERE to access the full 2024 Innovate2Build session, “Revolutionizing Marine Construction with Advance Design: The A/B Jetty Recapitalization Project.”

New innovations are providing society with more efficient, lower cost designs and sustainable construction. Learn about upcoming changes in 5 Ways Technology is Shifting the Structural Engineering Industry in the Next 5 Years.



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