AAAI Publications, Sixteenth AAAI/SIGART Doctoral Consortium

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Designing Water Efficient Residential Landscapes with Agent-Based Modeling
Rhonda Hoenigman

Last modified: 2011-08-04


The focus of my research is an agent-based system for optimizing spatial arrangements of plants on a landscape to maximize their growth and minimize their water use. The optimization criteria include a natural phenomenon known as facilitation, which is observed in water-scarce environments when larger shrubs serve as benefactors to smaller annuals by generating conditions that protect them from harsh afternoon sun. In my modeling and optimization system each plant is an agent with growth requirements. A plant agent's fitness at a given location is defined by a fitness function that includes those growth requirements and a penalty term designed to force facilitation. The landscape design is formulated as a combinatorial optimization problem with a discrete set of locations for each plant on a grid, a fixed number of plants, and a fitness function that defines the performance of a plant at a location. To evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, I applied a variety of search strategies, including simulated annealing and a new agent-based approach that mimics how plant communities evolve over time, to different collections of simulated plant types and landscapes and compared the fitness scores and spatial arrangments in the solutions. The fitness scores from the search strategies were comparable. The search strategies produced different spatial distributions of the larger plants, and all designs exhibited facilitation and lower water use.

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