In this article we research the design of detached breakwaters, a type of coastal defence work designed to combat erosion on beaches in a stable, sustainable fashion. Our aim is to formulate a functional and environmental (nonstructural) method of design that defines the fundamental characteristics of a detached breakwater as a function of the desired effect on the coast whilst meeting social demands and preserving or improving the quality of the littoral environment. We aim to make this method generally applicable by considering relations between variables of different natures (climatic, geomorphologic, and geometric) influencing the changes experienced on the coast after the detached breakwater has been built. We carried out the study of the relations between the different variables on the data from 19 actual, existing detached breakwaters on the Spanish Mediterranean coastline, and we followed a methodology based on the implementation of nondimensional monomials and on a search for relations of dependency between them. Finally, we discussed the results obtained and came up with a proposal for a design method that uses some of the graphic relations found between the variables studied and that achieves the main objective. For example, a case of a detached breakwater's geometric presizing is solved as a practical demonstration of how the method is applied.