Effects of urban development on future multi-hazard risk: the case of Vancouver, Canada

  • Stephanie E. ChangEmail author
  • Jackie Z. K. Yip
  • Wendy Tse
Original Paper


Disaster risk reduction should anticipate how future natural hazard risk would be influenced by changes in urban vulnerability. This paper investigates the effect of one key driver of change, urban development. It models current and future risk for the year 2041 in a rapidly growing urban area, Vancouver, Canada, from both earthquake and coastal flood hazard. Three urban development futures are considered—status quo, compact, and sprawled development—that differ in the housing stock configuration used to accommodate an identical, projected increase in population and dwellings. Results indicate that while exposure is expected to increase substantially in future, the implications for risk vary greatly between hazards and impact types. For earthquake, population increase is attenuated by improvements in the building stock, whereas for flooding, disaster impacts increase at a much higher rate than population growth. Overall, disruption impacts are more sensitive than damage to changes in population and development. The effect of urban development on future risk is not unidirectional, but depends upon hazard type, impact type, and degree of climate change. None of the development futures is consistently best from a risk perspective, but along many dimensions, compact development yields more severe disaster impacts relative to status quo development. The findings underscore the importance of considering natural hazard risk in urban development planning, and of recognizing the inherent differences between hazards and impact types in this planning.


Risk Projection Urban development Earthquake Flood Coastal 



This study was supported in part by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) Network of Centres of Excellence. PICS and MEOPAR had no role in the design, conduct, or reporting of the research.


  1. Berke PR, Song Y, Stevens M (2009) Integrating hazard mitigation into New Urban and conventional developments. J Plan Educ Res 28:441–455. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bouwer LM (2013) Projections of future extreme weather losses under changes in climate and exposure. Risk Anal 33(5):915–930. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. British Columbia Ministry of Environment (2013) Sea level rise adaptation primer—a toolkit to build adaptive capacity on Canada’s South Coasts. Accessed 06 Feb 2018
  4. Burby RJ, Nelson AC, Parker D, Handmer J (2010) Urban containment policy and exposure to natural hazards: is there a connection? J Environ Plan Manag 44(4):475–490. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang SE, Gregorian M, Pathman K, Yumagulova L, Tse W (2012) Urban growth and long-term changes in natural hazard risk. Environ Plan A 44:989–1008. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Church JA, Clark PU, Cazenave A, Gregory JM, Jevrejeva S, Levermann A et al (2013) Sea level change Climate Change 2013. The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the 5th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Clague J, Turner B (2003) Vancouver, city on the edge: living with a dynamic geological landscape. Tricouni Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  8. de Ruiter MC, Ward PJ, Daniell JE, Aerts JCJH (2017) A comparison of flood and earthquake vulnerability assessment indicators. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 17:1231–1251. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dutton A, Carlson AE, Long AJ, Milne GA, Clark PU, DeConto R et al (2015) Sea-level rise due to polar ice-sheet mass loss during past warm periods. Science 349:6244. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. FEMA (2003) Multi-hazard loss estimation methodology earthquake model—HAZUS-MH MR4—technical manual. Federal Emergency Management Agency, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  11. Forzieri G, Bianchi A, Batista e Silva F, Marin Herrera MA, Leblois A, Lavalle C, Aerts JCJH, Feyen L (2018) Escalating impacts of climate extremes on critical infrastructures in Europe. Glob Environ Change 48:97–107. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fraser Basin Council (2016) Lower mainland flood management strategy—phase 1 summary report. Accessed 06 Feb 2018
  13. Grünthal G, Thieken AH, Schwarz J, Radtke KS, Smolka A, Merz B (2006) Comparative risk assessments for the city of Cologne—storms, floods, earthquakes. Nat Hazards 38:21–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guerreiro SB, Dawson RJ, Kilsby C, Lewis E, Ford A (2018) Future heat-waves, droughts and floods in 571 European cities. Environ Res Lett 13:034009. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hung H-C, Ho M-C, Chen Y-J, Chian C-Y, Chen S-Y (2013) Integrating long-term seismic risk changes into improving emergency response and land-use planning: a case study for the Hsinchu City, Taiwan. Nat Hazards 69:491–508. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jain VK, Davidson R, Rosowsky D (2004) Modeling changes in hurricane risk over time. Nat Hazards Rev 6(2):88–96. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson K, Depietri Y, Breil M (2016) Multi-hazard risk assessment of two Hong Kong districts. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 19:311–323. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jongman B, Winsemius HC, Aerts JCJH, Coughlan de Perez E, van Aalst MK, Kron W, Ward PJ (2015) Declining vulnerability to floods and the global benefits of adaptation. Proc Natl Acad Sci 112:E2271–E2280. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee Y, Brody SD (2018) Examining the impact of land use on flood losses in Seoul, Korea. Land Use Policy 70:500–509. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lin N, Shullman E (2017) Dealing with hurricane surge flooding in a changing environment: part I. Risk assessment considering storm climatology change, sea level rise, and coastal development. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess 31:2379–2400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mechler R, Bouwer LM (2015) Understanding trends and projections of disaster losses and climate change: is vulnerability the missing link? Clim Change 133:23–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Metro Vancouver (2010) Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future. Last accessed 9 Oct 2018
  23. Nastev M, Todorov N (2013) Hazus: a standardized methodology for flood risk assessment in Canada. Can Water Resour J 38(3):223–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Onur T, Seemann MR (2004) Probabilities of significant earthquake shaking in communities across British Columbia: implications for emergency management. In: Proceedings of 13th world conference on earthquake engineering, Vancouver, BC. Paper no. 1065Google Scholar
  25. Sleeter BM, Wood NJ, Soulard CE, Wilson TS (2017) Projecting community changes in hazard exposure to support long-term risk reduction: a case study of tsunami hazards in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 22:10–22. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Song J, Fu X, Wang R, Peng Z-R, Gu Z (2018) Does planned retreat matter? investigating land use change under the impacts of flooding induced by sea level rise. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 23:703–733. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tinis S (2012) Storm surge almanac for Southwestern British Columbia: Fall/Winter 2012–2013. Last accessed 9 Oct 2018
  28. Tse W (2011) Shaping a disaster resilient region: the role of land use planning in mitigating seismic risk in Metro Vancouver, 2041. Master’s project. University of British Columbia, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  29. Yip JZK (2018) Spatially explicit robust impact patterns: a new approach to account for uncertainties of long-term sea-level rise impacts at the local level. Doctoral thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Last accessed 9 Oct 2018

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP)University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES)University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations