A Method for Assessing the Vulnerability of Buildings to Catastrophic (Tsunami) Marine Flooding


Sydney’s low-lying coastal infrastructure is vulnerable to the impact of catastrophic marine floods associated with tsunami and storm surges. The future impacts of such floods will be worse than in the past because of climate related sea level rise and increased exposure at the coast. Coastal planners and risk managers need innovative tools to undertake assessment of the vulnerability of buildings and infrastructure and likely probable maximum loss located within their areas of responsibility. Such assessments will enable risk mitigation measures to be developed and challenges of long-term sustainability to be addressed. In 2008, the SCCG together with the Australian Tsunami Research Centre at the University of New South Wales commenced a collaborative research project titled “A method for assessing the vulnerability of buildings to catastrophic (tsunami) marine flooding”.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of this project was to apply a newly developed GIS vulnerability assessment tool to selected coastal suburbs of Sydney, evaluate and quantify the vulnerability of buildings at those locations to a hypothetical tsunami (or storm surge) flood based on the latest scientific understanding.

Outcomes / Outputs

The results are presented via a series of thematic vulnerability maps, in which different types of buildings are displayed using a colour code corresponding to the RVI score.

The overall project outcomes are delivered in three forms:

  1. 1:5000 scale maps of the RVI scores of all buildings within the two study areas;
  2. A report including a detailed description of the method, the results and a series of potential recommendations for Government(s) to increase their capability to deal with long-term risk mitigation
  3. A step by step ArcGIS user’s manual for applying this model to other coastal areas including a specific tool to be installed onto the GIS platform.

The project outputs, finalised in August 2009, include the Final Report, User Manual and Project Fact Sheet click on the links below.

Final Report

User Manual


In November 2011, the SCCG partnered once again with the UNSW Pacific Tsunami Research Centre and Natural Hazards Research Laboratory (UNSW APTRC) to build upon this project and assess coastal vulnerability to multiple inundation sources. This 2-year project will develop a multi-hazard tool to assess the vulnerability of buildings and critical infrastructure to extreme marine inundatations caused both by tsunamis and storm surges.