Designing a machine shop for BC Ferries

CIVL design team

Pavan Dhillon, Liam Mazzucco, Kelly Kim, Justin Shou, Georgia Rea, Francis Soliven and Evan Song

Our project

BC Ferries is building a new facility in Richmond to repair and upgrade its vessels. We were given an architectural floor plan for a four-storey 7,525 square metre building that includes an eight-metre high ground floor where repairs will take place and office space on the two floors above. 

Our job was to develop a design concept to meet the building owner’s requirements, and then advance it to a detailed final design stage, including construction-ready structural drawings, as well as project schedule and budget. 

BC Ferries

Our design solution and process

One of the most significant challenges was the site itself. 

The ground conditions are very poor, with a lot of water content and a high risk of liquefaction during an earthquake. We designed a ground improvement plan consisting of over 1,200 460-mm diameter gravel columns extending down about 20 metres to provide support to the building. Our calculations show that they will provide excellent load-bearing support and resistance during an earthquake and prevent the building from experiencing catastrophic failure. 

After focusing on ground improvement, the next stage was to design the above-grade structure to meet the specified loads. While we considered different building systems and types, we chose structural steel. We built on our knowledge from a course in advanced steel design to size out the components, determine placement of beams and joists, and design the cross bracing. 

Our work also includes a detailed project schedule and an estimate of total projects costs, from pre-construction permits through to construction materials and labour, as well as annual costs for facility maintenance.

The process we went through is analogous to the process of submitting a proposal or business case to a building owner. We needed to make choices that were economically feasible without sacrificing the integrity of our structure.


CIVL design poster


The challenges we faced

This was a large, complex project. These complexities began with needing to calculate the loads on the building, in comparison to typical classroom assignments where you are told what the loads will be. 

Civil engineering is more than the technical side and equations, and there are many other aspects to project development. 

There were challenges in coming up with a realistic schedule to ensure the proposed building could be completed within the specified timeline. We reached out to people in industry to validate assumptions we’d made about delivery and installation times, but in the end our schedule includes an intense period where we needed to ramp up the onsite labour to get it done on time. 

What we’re most proud of

We all put in a lot of work on individual elements and the project as a whole. 

Seeing all that come together, when we integrated each of our component parts into the model, was so rewarding. We were all very excited to see it come to life and realize that we’d made it happen. 

There’s great pride that comes from stepping back and realizing how much knowledge we’ve gained over the degree, both in our classes and co-op positions. 

It’s sometimes hard to have an accurate sense of your skills or knowledge because civil engineering includes such a vast range of topic areas that you need to cover. But for this project, we had to apply our knowledge from so many areas, and it was rewarding to recognize that we know a lot! 


Our project’s future

We identified areas for future work to build on what we accomplished in the capstone, including section optimization doing more building modelling to increase the accuracy of forces, and finetuning the schedule.

Two students standing in an outdoor stairwell observing the project site.

Civil Engineering

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Civil Engineering

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