A simplified approach for flood vulnerability assessment of historic sites

  • Fabiana Navia Miranda
  • Tiago Miguel FerreiraEmail author
Original Paper


In the last decades, floods have increased in frequency all over the world due to diverse phenomena such as climate change, extended urbanization, land use, etc. Their social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts have also grown significantly, highlighting the need for the development of further studies and improved methods to manage and mitigate flood risk, mainly in urban areas. Historic sites need particular attention in this field, not only because the high and irreplaceable cultural value of these areas, but also taking into account that the constructive typologies that they host are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. In consequence of that, the analysis of the phenomena, the evaluation of their consequences and the adoption of adequate mitigation and preparedness measures are presently a fundamental societal challenge. Having this in mind, the present paper aims at proposing an innovative methodology focused on the assessment of flood vulnerability in historic sites through the evaluation of a set of exposure and sensitivity indicators. From the analysis of these indicators, it is possible to obtain a Flood Vulnerability Index capable of measuring the spread of flood vulnerability over an extended area. The historic centre of Guimarães, in Portugal, declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001, is used here as a pilot case study to apply and discusses the preliminary version of the approach. Although some improvements are still needed, this approach can be already used to provides preliminary vulnerability scenarios and to point the way to the definition of more efficient and customized strategies for managing and mitigating flood risk in historic sites. Moreover, with further improvements and calibrations resorting to larger and more diverse data, it will be possible to reduce some of the uncertainties currently involved in the assessment process and to make its application wider and more robust.


Flood vulnerability assessment Exposure Sensitivity Historic sites Historic centre of Guimarães 



This work was funded by the European Commission through the ELARCH Project (Ref. 552129-EM-1-2014-1-IT-ERAMUNDUS-EMA2) and by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the postdoctoral grant SFRH/BPD/122598/2016. The authors would like to acknowledge the City Council of Guimarães for the support and contribution to the development of this work, and to express their gratitude to the anonymous reviewer for his/her insightful comments and constructive suggestions, which have significantly improved the paper.


  1. Adelekan IO (2011) Vulnerability assessment of an urban flood in Nigeria: Abeokuta flood 2007. Nat Hazards 56:215–231. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger N (2006) Vulnerability. Global Environ Change 16(3):268–281. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Apel H, Aronica G, Kreibich H, Thienken A (2009) Flood risk analyses—How detailed do we need to be? Nat Hazards 49(1):79–98. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balica SF, Wright NG, van der Meulen F (2012) A flood vulnerability index for coastal cities and its use in assessing climate change impacts. Nat Hazards 64:73–105. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barroca B, Bernardara P, Mouchel JM, Hubert G (2006) Indicators for identification of urban flooding vulnerability. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 6(4):553–561. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bedeaux DG, Amsing EBJ, van’t Wout T, Augustyn AM (2018) Is cultural heritage life saving? Case study analysis to the relation between flood risk management and cultural heritage. In: 38th annual conference of the international association for impact assessment. 16–19 May, DurbanGoogle Scholar
  7. Birkmann J (2006) Measuring vulnerability to promote disaster-resilient societies: conceptual frameworks and definitions. In: Birkmann J (ed) Measuring vulnerability to natural hazards: towards disaster resilient societies. United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), Tokyo, pp 9–54. Google Scholar
  8. Birkmann J, Cardona OD, Carreño ML, Barbat AH, Pelling M, Schneiderbauer S, Kienberger S, Keiler M, Alexander D, Zeil P, Welle T (2013) Framing vulnerability, risk and societal responses: the MOVE framework. Nat Hazards 67:193–211. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bollin C, Cárdenas C, Hahn H, Vatsa K (2003) Disaster risk management by communities and local governments, Washington.
  10. Crichton D (1999) The risk triangle. In: Ingleton J (ed) National disaster management. Tudor Rose, Leicester, pp 102–103Google Scholar
  11. European Parliament and Council (2007) Directive 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2007 on the assessment and management of flood risks. Retrieved on June 3, 2017 from EUR-Lex Access to European Union law:
  12. EXCIMAP (2007) Handbook on good practices for flood mapping in Europe. European exchange circle on flood mapping (EXCIMAP). In: Martin F, Loat R (eds) Retrieved from Accessed 15 Mar 2018
  13. FEMA (2005) Federal emergency management agency, before and after disasters. FEMA 533, September 2005.
  14. Ferreira TM, Vicente R, Varum H (2014) Seismic vulnerability assessment of masonry facade walls: development, application and validation of a new scoring method. Struct Eng Mech 50:541–561. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF et al (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gain AK, Mojtahed V, Biscaro C et al (2015) An integrated approach of flood risk assessment in the eastern part of Dhaka City. Nat Hazards 79:1499–1530. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hammond MJ, Chen AS, Djordjević S, Butler D, Mark O (2015) Urban flood impact assessment: a state-of-the-art review. Urban Water J 12(1):14–29. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaplan S (1997) The words of risk analysis. Risk Anal 17(4):407–417. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kundzewicz ZW, Pińskwar I, Brakenridge GR (2013) Large floods in Europe, 1985–2009. Hydrol Sci J 58(1):1–7. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ludy J, Kondolf GM (2012) Flood risk perception in lands “protected” by 100-year levees. Nat Hazards 61:829. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Maio R, Estêvão J, Ferreira TM, Vicente R (2017) The seismic performance of stone masonry buildings in Faial island and the relevance of implementing effective seismic strengthening policies. Eng Struct 141:41–58. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Maiti S, Jha SK, Garai S et al (2015) Assessment of social vulnerability to climate change in the eastern coast of India. Clim Change 131:287–306. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Marzeion B, Levermann A (2014) Loss of cultural world heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise. Environ Res Lett 9:34001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mebarki A, Valencia N, Salagnac J, Barroca B (2012) Flood hazards and masonry constructions: a probabilistic framework for damage, risk and resilience at urban scale. Nat Hazard Earth Syst Sci 15(5):1799–1809. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Michalski S, Pedersoli JL Jr (2016) The ABC method: a risk management approach to the preservation of cultural heritage. Canadian Conservation Institute (CCCI/ICC) and International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), OttawaGoogle Scholar
  26. Navia F (2017) An approach for assessing flood risk in historic urban centres. M.Sc. thesis. Advanced Masters in Structural Analysis of Monuments and Historical Constructions (SAHC). University of Minho, Guimarães, PortugalGoogle Scholar
  27. O’Brien G, O’Keefe P, Rose J, Wisner B (2006) Climate change and disaster management. Disasters 30:64–80. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ortiz R, Ortiz P, Martín JM, Vázquez MA (2016) A new approach to the assessment of flooding and dampness hazards in cultural heritage, applied to the historic centre of Seville (Spain). Sci Total Environ 551–552:546–555. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pelling M (2003) Tracing the roots of urban risk and vulnerability. In: The Vulnerability of Cities: Natural Disasters and Social Resilience, Routledge, London, pp 3–18. ISBN: 9781136551475Google Scholar
  30. Portugal (2009) Decree law no. 309/2009 of October 23, 2009. Ministry of Culture, Government of Portugal. Accessed 10 Feb 2018 (in Portuguese)
  31. QGIS (2017) Development team. QGIS Geographic Information System. Open Source Geospatial Foundation. Accessed 11 Jan 2018
  32. Ramísio P (2012) An urban watershed regeneration project: the Costa/Couros river case study. Urban Environment. Alliance for Global Sustainability Bookseries (Science and Technology: Tools for Sustainable Development) vol. 19Google Scholar
  33. Ramísio P, Duarte A, Vieira J (2011). Integrated flood management in urban environment: a case study. XIV world water congress “bridging science and policy”, Cancun, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  34. Rana IA, Routray JK (2016) Actual vis-à-vis perceived risk of flood prone urban communities in Pakistan. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 19:366–378. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rana IA, Routray JK (2018) Integrated methodology for flood risk assessment and application in urban communities of Pakistan. Nat Hazards 91:239–266. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Santos C, Ferreira TM, Vicente R, Mendes da Silva JAR (2013) Building typologies identification to support risk mitigation at the urban scale—case study of the old city centre of Seixal, Portugal. J Cult Herit 14:449–463. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schwarz J, Maiwald H (2008) Damage and loss prediction model based on the vulnerability of building types. In: 4th international symposium on flood defence. Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Toronto, pp. 74-1–74-9Google Scholar
  38. Scott M, White I, Kuhlicke C et al (2013) Living with flood risk/The more we know, the more we know we don’t know: reflections on a decade of planning, flood risk management and false precision/Searching for resilience or building social capacities for flood risks?/participatory floodplain manage. Plan Theory Pract 14:103–140. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Southgate RJ, Roth C, Schneider J, Shi P, Onishi T, Wenger D, Amman W, Ogallo L, Beddington J, Murray V (2013) Using science for disaster risk reduction. Report of the UNISDR Scientific and technical advisory group.
  40. Stephenson V, D’Ayala D (2014) A new approach to flood vulnerability assessment for historic buildings in England. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 14(5):1035–1048. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stovel H (1998) Risk preparedness: a management manual for world cultural heritage. International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), RomeGoogle Scholar
  42. UNESCO (2001) World cultural heritage nomination document: Historic Centre of Guimarães. UNESCO World Heritage Centre, 2001.
  43. UNISDR (2009) UNISDR terminology on disaster risk reduction, Geneva. Accessed 15 Mar 2018
  44. UNISDR (2015) Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction 2015–2030, Geneva. Accessed 5 Dec 2018
  45. UNOCHA (2013) 2013 global focus model. OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (OCHA ROAP), BangkokGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang J-J (2015) Flood risk maps to cultural heritage: measures and process. J Cult Herit 16:210–220. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wisner B, Blaikie P, Cannon T, Davis I (2004) At risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters, 2nd edn. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Zheng Z, Qi S, Xu Y (2013) Questionable frequent occurrence of urban flood hazards in modern cities of China. Nat Hazards 65:1009–1010. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhou Y, Liu Y, Wu W, Li N (2015) Integrated risk assessment of multi-hazards in China. Nat Hazards 78:257–280. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil Engineering, ISISE, Institute of Science and Innovation for Bio-Sustainability (IB-S)University of MinhoGuimarãesPortugal

Personalised recommendations