A genetic algorithm predicts the vertical growth of cities

May 25, 2018, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)
3D representation of the Minato Ward (Tokyo) used for the study. Credit: Ivan Pazos et al.

The increase of skyscrapers in a city resembles the development of some living systems. Spanish researchers have created an evolutionary genetic algorithm that, on the basis of the historical and economic data of an urban area, can predict what its skyline could look like in the coming years. The method has been applied successfully to the thriving Minato Ward, in Tokyo.

Scientists have realized that the growth of cities follows patterns similar to those of certain self-organized biological systems. Inspired by nature, they have developed that predict how the number of skyscrapers and other buildings in an will increase.

"We operate within evolutionary computation, a branch of artificial intelligence and machine learning that uses the basic rules of genetics and Darwin's natural selection logic to make predictions," explains architect Ivan Pazos.

"In this type of computing, a multitude of possible solutions to a problem are randomly combined," adds Pazos, who currently works for a Japanese architectural firm, "and a selection system is choosing the best results. This operation is repeated again and again until the algorithms get the most accurate results."

In this way, Pazos and a team of researchers from the University of A Coruña (Spain) have created algorithms -based on other standard genetic algorithms- that learn the growth patterns of urban districts using historical data from the construction sector and different economic parameters.

The study, published in the Journal of Urban Planning and Development, has focused on one of the neighbourhoods with the highest vertical growth in the world in recent years: the Minato Ward, in Tokyo, where the headquarters of multinational companies such as Mitsubishi, Honda, NEC, Toshiba or Sony, are located. "This methodology could have been applied to any other city with a high number of skyscrapers," Pazos says.

In 2015, once all the information had been gathered, the authors created a series of maps and 3-D representations of Minato to be able to predict the number of buildings and their probable locations within this booming ward in the following years during the 2016-2019 period.

"The predictions of the algorithm have been very accurate with respect to the actual evolution of the Minato skyline in 2016 and 2017," says Pazos. "Now, we are evaluating their accuracy for 2018 and 2019 and it seems, according to the observations, that they will be 80 percent correct."

According to the authors, the not only estimates the number of future skyscrapers in a neighbourhood of the , but also the specific areas where they will be most likely be located.

"The final conclusion of the study is that evolutionary computation seems to be able to find growth patterns that are not obvious in complex urban systems, and by means of its subsequent application, it serves the function of predicting possible scenarios for the evolution of cities," concludes Pazos.

Explore further: UN: 68 percent of world population will live in urban areas by 2050

More information: Rafael Ivan Pazos Perez et al. Predicting Vertical Urban Growth Using Genetic Evolutionary Algorithms in Tokyo's Minato Ward, Journal of Urban Planning and Development (2017). DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)UP.1943-5444.0000413

Related Stories

Designing urban energy systems based on the urban climate

April 24, 2018

As cities grow at an ever-faster pace, concerns about global warming rise and fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, cities will have to adopt more sustainable energy solutions. EPFL researchers have developed a model that ...

Why is it so hot at night in some cities?

March 12, 2018

During the nighttime, it is hotter in the city than in nearby suburbs or the countryside. But just how much hotter differs between cities. Researchers from the MSE2 (CNRS / MIT) international joint research laboratory and ...

Quantum algorithm could help AI think faster

February 5, 2018

One of the ways that computers think is by analysing relationships within large sets of data. An international team has shown that quantum computers can do one such analysis faster than classical computers for a wider array ...

Recommended for you

Apple closing iPhone security gap used by law enforcement

June 14, 2018

Apple is closing a security gap that allowed outsiders to pry personal information from locked iPhones without a password, a change that will thwart law enforcement agencies that have been exploiting the vulnerability to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.