Course syllabus


BOM125 BOM125 Risk assessment and decision support lp3 VT24 (7.5 hp). The course is offered by the department of Architecture and Civil Engineering


Welcome to this course on risk assessment and decision support in engineering! Infrastructure and environmental engineering projects are often associated with substantial risks of different kinds, which may lead to severe consequences to both society and problem owners. Examples are risks concerning drinking water supply, ground stability, accidents with hazardous goods and contamination problems. This course focuses on how to identify, evaluate, and design cost-effective and sustainable actions for controlling risks and to increase the safety in projects in geo and water engineering.


The aim of the course is to give you an advanced understanding of risk assessment and decision support in geo and water engineering. In doing so, the focus of the course is on the use of risk assessment methods and risk-based decision analysis tools for selecting cost-effective and sustainable actions for reducing and controlling risks.

Course content and structure

The course is structured around a set of initial lectures and a project assignment will give you a deeper understanding of how to apply risk assessment and decision analysis tools on real-world problems. You will get practical hands-on experience of several tools and models, e.g. logic tree analysis, Monte Carlo simulations, cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and multi-criteria analysis (MCA). You will learn how to use these methods for identifying cost-effective and sustainable alternatives for reducing and controlling risks.

During the first three weeks, the course gives an overview of risk assessment tools as well as introducing specific measures for controlling risks. Parallel to the lectures, the project assignment will start and, for example, computer-based exercises are scheduled to introduce models for risk estimation.

In the project assignment, you will identify and estimate risks for interruptions in a large drinking water supply system. In doing so, you will consider risks related to contamination of a water supply system, stability problems along the raw water source, road safety along the water source and groundwater flow issues in the supply system.

In the third week, the project groups will have finished the risk models which constitute the first part of the project work. Each group will review the models prepared by another group and provide feedback that can be used to further improve the models. You will present the updated risk models to the supervisors as a hand-in (week 4) including:

  • Estimations of risk levels using risk estimation models based on fault tree and event tree analysis. Calculations of soil stability, road safety etc. will be used as input to the models.
  • Short description of selected risk-reduction measures and descriptions of how these alternatives can reduce risks if performed.

During weeks 3 and 4 we will also start focusing on probabilistic risk analysis and on applying risk-based decision analysis methods for evaluating alternative actions to reduce risks to the drinking water supply. Special attention will be given to cost-benefit decision analysis (CBA). You are supposed to:

  • Organise the problems into a decision framework which will structure the evaluation and comparison of the alternative actions.

Several models are used in the project work, with a number of uncertain parameters. During weeks 4 to 6 we will discuss uncertainties and computer-based exercises are scheduled where tools for uncertainty analysis and sensitivity analysis will be used. The purpose is to:

  • Identify the uncertain parameters and evaluate them to investigate the effect on the evaluation of the alternative actions.

During week 6 you will have time to finalize the project work and prepare a draft final report which will be handed in in week 6 and reviewed by another group.

During weeks 6 and 7 you work with multi-criteria analysis (MCA), i.e. a method for decision analysis. A computer-based exercise is scheduled to introduce an MCA tool (WISER). You will:

  • Analyse and evaluate the project assignment alternatives from a sustainability perspective using MCA. This will be made in an exercise, which will be reported individually and separate from the project work.

Two seminars are arranged (weeks 6 and 7) to discuss important methods and concepts. The seminars are based on examples and content from scientific papers.

In week 8, the final project work report will be handed in and presented. You will present your work orally to your fellow students. Another group will scrutinise your work, ask questions and give comments based on their own experience.

Note that all deadlines for hand-ins etc. are indicated in the schedule, and they are managed using Canvas.

Learning objectives

After completion of the course, you should be able to:

  • Estimate risk levels using risk assessment methods in order to evaluate analysed systems.
  • Evaluate and critically review risk reduction measures by using decision analysis methods in combination with risk assessments.
  • Analyse and evaluate uncertainties in risk calculations and decision analysis outcomes.
  • Identify and demonstrate strengths and limitations of methods for risk assessment and decision analysis.

In written report and oral presentation, clearly present and thoroughly evaluate and discuss results of risk assessments and decision analyses in infrastructure and environmental engineering projects.'


The overall purpose of the project work is to get a practical understanding of risk assessment and decision analysis, specifically concepts for identifying, evaluating, and designing suitable actions for controlling risks and to increase the safety in geo and water engineering projects. The project work includes:

  • identification and estimation of risks,
  • identification of alternatives for reducing risks,
  • evaluation of alternatives by using decision analysis, and
  • report writing and oral presentation of the results.

For more details regarding the project, there will be a detailed project description handed out.

MCA exercise

As a complement to the project work, a separate exercise based on multi-criteria decision analysis (MCA) will be carried out. The overall purpose of the exercise is to get a practical understanding of the strengths and limitations of using MCA as a method to evaluate the sustainability of alternatives. The purpose is also to adopt different perspectives and roles in a decision-making process. The exercise includes:

  • creating an MCA model per group by using the tool WISER, each group adopting a specific stakeholder perspective,
  • a joint exercise where the models from all groups will be merged into one and the results discussed, and
  • writing a short reflection on the exercise to be handed in individually.

At the exercise, a detailed description of what to do will be handed out.


Excerpts from books, reports and scientific papers (see schedule and the module on Literature on Canvas).

Examination and grading

The examination will be based on a written exam and assessment of exercises and the project assignment. Grading will occur according to Chalmers rules (three graded scale) for both the written exam and the project assignment. The written exam and the project assignment will be given equal weight in the final grading. The grading of the report will be made according to the instructions of the report writing given in the project description. There is no grading of the individually written reflection on the MCA exercise, however, it is compulsory. Furthermore, it is compulsory to attend the two seminars where scientific papers are discussed.

Contact details


See detailed schedule

Course summary:

Date Details Due