Section 3: Coastal Engineering, Mitigation and Societal Response to Coastal Hazards



Section 3 explores hard shoreline mitigation strategies and their impacts to coastline erosion, and introduces alternative mitigation approaches using soft engineering methods and material. The unit introduces the concept of layered defenses, their direct benefits and how these strategies mitigate risk, and in the last module, the concept of smart building or building with nature is explored. The unit consists of three modules:

  • Hard Structures and Coastal Modifications through Mimicking Natural Processes (Module 7)
  • Managed Retreat/Multi-Layered Protection (Module 8)
  • Smart Building (Module 9)

These modules consider how policy makers and city planners can use this information to determine which measures minimize coastal hazards and erosion by establishing sediment continuity and, therefore, function; which methods (hard or soft) are most suitable for protecting coastlines; and the concept of layered protection as an innovative and smart way to protect against future hazards.

Section Goals

Upon completion of Section 3 you will be able to:

  • analyze variability of coastal erosion and accretion rates at natural settings as well as at locations proximal to hard engineering structures;
  • explain and contrast innovative approaches to coastal hazard mitigation;
  • analyze concepts such as layered defenses, smart building, and building with nature as sustainable mitigation practices.

Section Objectives

In order to reach these goals, the instructors have established the following objectives for learning. In working through the modules within Section 3, you will be able to:

  • analyze differential erosion by utilizing geospatial tools and sequential images;
  • investigate alternative methods for non-structural shoreline hazard mitigation, including managed retreat and multi-layered defenses;
  • explore the pros and cons of managed retreat and consider examples of communities facing retreat as an option;
  • analyze hypothetical storm surge impacts on low-lying coastal communities using Google Earth;
  • consider smart building approaches, including building with nature and layered defense;
  • integrate concepts of coastal flood protection through newer methods such as massive nourishments.


In Module 7, you will examine coastal erosion using Google Earth timeline tool, analyze the effects of hard structures on shoreline position, and consider the need for long-term planning practices at a vulnerable coastal site on the west coast of the US. In Module 8, you will analyze hypothetical storm surge impacts of communities in Louisiana as a function of shelf slope, wind speed, and fetch, and in Module 9, you will consider layered defense and smart building needs in a city that is expanding, and evaluate the benefits of building with nature.