Unsteady flows such as tsunamis, impulse waves and dam-break waves can lead to damages and human losses. Hence, specific research to limit casualties and reconstruction costs is needed. The complexity of the phenomena involved suggests that a hybrid experimental-numerical approach should be used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the process. This paper presents an explorative study on the comparison of SPH numerical simulations using a highly effective parallel computing technique with large scale experimental data for dry bed surges and wet bed bores impacting free-standing buildings with and without openings. These preliminary results showed a relatively good agreement between the two approaches in the estimation of water depths around the buildings, which represents a key parameter for the design of vertical shelters. Nevertheless, some differences observed during the impact phase may be attributed to the incapability of the SPH numerical simulations to fully capture the turbulent nature of the process and its air-entrainment. These validation tests with detailed experimental data are a promising approach to improve the numerical models toward the development of reliable numerical tools for a safer design of resilient structures.