Introduction to Scenario Tool


The Scenario Tool is a planning-support tool that enables users to simulate urban development and the performance of water management interventions dynamically over time. It is accessed online via web browser, and utilises GIS to inform its modelling.

Multiple modules are made available for users as the Scenario Tool continues its development under the Tools & Products team by Dr Christian Urich. The current beta release includes an extreme heat assessment module and 30 adaptation nodes. Several modules are under development and testing, which includes TARGET thermal comfort module, an urban water cycle module, a simple flood module (requires SWMM file). Users can learn more about each module in the documentation page, or by clicking ‘Learn More’ when selecting the module for project assessment.


The main steps in order to run the tool are:

  • Ensure that there are appropriate GIS files (e.g. boundary, residential zoning, et cetera) for the area you wish to analyse.

  • Prepare land cover data if your study area is already developed (or utilise Geoscape date)

  • Create a new project, select the performance assessment modules that you want to run, and drag the relevant files into the browser window.

  • Using the scenario editor, add and modify different urban development rules (e.g. the number of residential units with tree coverage).

  • Run the model to generate the urban form and subsequent assessment data.

  • Export the simulation database and manage the output using GIS (admin user level only)

In terms of data requirements, the platform requires a boundary file of the study area. Optional data includes a land cover map of the region of interest, and a drainage network file created in SWMM.

The platform displays a real-time satellite image of the study area, which can then be overlayed with new urban form generated through the modelling, or gridded maps depicting the distribution of impervious area, land surface temperature, et cetera.

To produce this urban form, separate scenarios can be created for the case study in which options such as residential development, tree canopies, subdivision of existing lots, et cetera, can be set to be modelled based on input parameters. In order to simulate some things (e.g. residential development), a specified area of effect is needed to be given to the platform (either through manual drawing through the online user interface or imported GIS layers).

Once modules have been run for the defined catchment, results can be downloaded via a GIS database. As the platform is hosted online, this data (as well as the data for the entire project) remains available after the initial performance assessment has taken place. Being based in the cloud also gives the tool assess to a base layer of data at all times, including census information sourced from the ABS, meteorological data from BOM, and data vendor sourced information relating to building footprints and cadastral parcels.

Use & Limitations

The platform can be used to do things such as:

  • Producing an LST map for an existing area

  • Creating a realisation of pervious and impervious area for a newly developed precinct

  • Comparing the urban heat island effects of different development strategies

  • Depicting the multiple benefits of increased blue / green infrastructure, and providing insights into the urban system behaviour

  • Combining different performance assessments normally undertaken in separate programs

  • Enabling representative demographic data for a specified region to be downloaded

The platform has limitations based on testing & industry feedback - The scenario assessment results are not to be used for benchmarking and/or setting targets, because the tool is used to assess the viability of adaptation strategies and its estimated impact on causing problematic infrastructure performances

  • Size of case study boundaries for scenarios are limited from street scale to catchment scale urban form and parcel development. The tool does not support detailed design at the lot scale, because the tool randomly generates the input parameters of buildings, roadways, tree canopies, etc. across the selected boundary.

  • User access control is currently limited to one user per account access for editing and reading. The aim for the tool is to allow collaboration from different stakeholders such as decision-makers, modellers, and policy planners from their individual domain/account, and may be made available with additional investments.

Further Readings

Mair, M., Mikovits, C., Sengthaler, M., Schöpf, M., Kinzel, H., Urich, C., Kleidorfer, M., Sitzenfrei, R., and Rauch, W., 2014. The application of a Web-geographic information system for improving urban water cycle modelling. Water Science & Technology. 70 (11), 1838-1846.

Urich, C., Bach, P., Sitzenfrei, R., Kleidorfer, M., McCarthy, D.T., Deletic, A., Rauch, W., 2013. Modelling cities and water infrastructure dynamics. Proc. ICE-Eng. Sustain. 166 (5), 301-308.

Urich, C. & Rauch, W., 2014. Exploring critical pathways for urban water management to identify robust strategies under deep uncertainties. Water Res. 66, 374-389.

Vanegas, C.A., Kelly, T., Weber, B., Halatsch, J., Aliaga, D.G., and Muller, P., 2012. Procedural generation of parcels in urban modeling. Comput. Graph. Forum 31 (2pt3), 681-690.