Forces on buildings with openings and orientation in a steady post-tsunami free-surface flow

Davide Wüthrich*, Michael Pfister, Anton J. Schleiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Steady free-surface flows around buildings occurring during flood or tsunami events can produce major damages and a quantification of the post-peak forces is essential for safety and resilience of coastal structures. The loading process is highly affected by the flow Froude number and the drag coefficient, commonly defined for highly subcritical flows, while field observations of tsunami flows reported Froude numbers close to one, visually appearing as a choked regime. The present experimental study addresses the hydrodynamic forces on emerging buildings in a subcritical choked regime, focusing on the effect of openings and orientation. Laboratory experiments indicated a substantial difference in flow depths between the up- and downstream side of the building for increasing Froude numbers. The presence of openings induced a flow through the building lowering the difference in flow depth, limiting the effect of the hydrostatic component of the loading process. The formulation of an empirical resistance coefficient CR allowed a combination of both form drag and hydrostatic forces. Whilst for impervious buildings CR was consistent with reference studies, for buildings with openings CR was directly dependent upon porosity. Contrarily to the unsteady flow conditions, results showed that the sidewalls also played a role in the loading process. Buildings with a rotated orientation resulted in slightly larger surfaces exposed to the flow and larger horizontal forces. Nevertheless, these were applied at lower cantilever arms, thus reducing the tilting moment. Altogether, this study provides experimentally-derived parameters that will support hydraulic engineers in the design of coastal structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103753
Number of pages11
JournalCoastal Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Coastal structures
  • Forces
  • Openings
  • Resistance coefficient
  • Steady flow


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