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Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx

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Structural Safety

journal homepage: www.elsevier .com/locate /s t rusafe

Computational intelligence methods for the efficient reliability analysisof complex flood defence structures

Greer B. Kingston a, Mohammadreza Rajabalinejad b, Ben P. Gouldby a,, Pieter H.A.J.M. Van Gelder ba HR Wallingford Ltd., Howbery Park, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 8BA, United Kingdomb Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Delft University of Technology, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands

a r t i c l e i n f o

Article history:Received 24 November 2008Received in revised form 12 August 2010Accepted 19 August 2010Available online xxxx

Keywords:Flood defenceStructural reliabilityArtificial neural networksGenetic algorithmsAdaptive samplingResponse surface function

0167-4730/$ - see front matter 2010 Published bydoi:10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

Corresponding author.E-mail addresses: g.kingston@hrwallingford.co.u

by@hrwallingford.co.uk (B.P. Gouldby).

Please cite this article in press as: Kingston GBstructures. Struct Saf (2010), doi:10.1016/j.stru

a b s t r a c t

With the continual rise of sea levels and deterioration of flood defence structures over time, it is no longerappropriate to define a design level of flood protection, but rather, it is necessary to estimate the reliabil-ity of flood defences under varying and uncertain conditions. For complex geotechnical failure mecha-nisms, it is often necessary to employ computationally expensive finite element methods to analysedefence and soil behaviours; however, methods available for structural reliability analysis are generallynot suitable for direct application to such models where the limit state function is only defined implicitly.In this study, an artificial neural network is used as a response surface function to efficiently emulate thecomplex finite element model within a Monte Carlo simulation. To ensure the successful and robustimplementation of this approach, a genetic algorithm adaptive sampling method is designed and appliedto focus sampling of the implicit limit state function towards the limit state region in which the accuracyof the estimated response is of the greatest importance to the estimated structural reliability. The accu-racy and gains in computational efficiency obtainable using the proposed method are demonstratedwhen applied to the 17th Street Canal flood wall which catastrophically failed when Hurricane Katrinahit New Orleans in 2005.

2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

1. Introduction

Floods are a widespread and potentially devastating naturalhazard. Recent serious flood events throughout the world, suchas the 2002 and 2005 European floods, the New Orleans event in2005 [1,2] and the 2007 UK summer floods [3], have prompted ashift away from flood protection policies that consider a standardof protection towards risk-based flood assessment methods, whichtake into account the probability of flooding and the related conse-quences. In much of the developed world, the probability of flood-ing has been modified by the construction of flood defences (e.g.dikes, flood gates), which form an important part of a broaderapproach to integrated flood risk management. Thus, to supportcredible estimates of the probability of flood inundation, the struc-tural reliability of flood defences, given uncertain strength andloading conditions, must be taken into account.

In traditional structural reliability analysis, failure of a structurearises when the loads acting upon the structure, S, exceed itsbearing capacity, or resistance, R. Here, R and S are functions ofthe basic random variables X = {Xi, i = 1, . . . ,K}, which describe

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k (G.B. Kingston), b.gould-

et al. Computational intelligensafe.2010.08.002

the material properties of, and the external loads applied to, thestructure. The problem is then typically presented in the followinggeneralised form [4]:

Pf PgR; S 6 0 Z

gR;S60fXxdx 1

where Pf gives the probability of failure; fX(x) is the multivariateprobability density function of X; and g(R,S) is the well known limitstate function (LSF), which is often defined as g(X) = R S. In systembased flood risk analysis models, where series of flood defences pro-tect urban areas and there is a requirement to model the conse-quences of failure in terms of damage to infrastructure throughinundation, it can be convenient to consider the fragility of individ-ual flood defence cross-sections (e.g. see [5]), which is the probabil-ity of failure conditional on loading, defined by:

Pf PgX 6 0jS s 2

In some cases, the relationships between R and S are known explic-itly and g(X) can be expressed in closed form (or the problem can besuitably simplified such that this is the case). However, in othermore complex cases, such as those involving geotechnical instabil-ities, the LSF can only be evaluated implicitly through a more com-plex numerical model, such as a finite element (FE) model. For themajority of flood defences, a simplified numerical method (e.g.

ce methods for the efficient reliability analysis of complex flood defence

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002mailto:g.kingston@hrwallingford.co.ukmailto:b.gouldby@hrwallingford.co.ukmailto:b.gouldby@hrwallingford.co.ukhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01674730http://www.elsevier.com/locate/strusafehttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

2 G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx

Bishops simplified method) may suffice and, in many cases, will beall that the limited available geotechnical data lends itself to. How-ever, for more critical defences whose failure would result in cata-strophic flooding (e.g. storm surge barriers; defences that protectareas lying below sea level in the Netherlands and New Orleans),a full finite element (FE) analysis may be warranted. In these cases,evaluating the probability of failure of the flood defence can beproblematic for reasons discussed as follows.

For all but the simplest cases, the integral in (1) is analyticallyintractable and some method is required to estimate Pf. Methodsavailable for this include gradient-based methods (the so-calledFORM and SORM approaches) and simulation-based methods (e.g.Monte Carlo methods, Riemann integration) [4]. However, neitherof these approaches is directly suitable for estimating the probabil-ity of complex flood defence failures where evaluation of the LSF isimplicit. The former methods require explicit knowledge of the LSF,as it is necessary to estimate the gradient of the LSF with respect tothe basic variables, whilst the latter, simulation-based approachescan be computationally prohibitive, since, for each realisation ofthe basic random variables, a complete FE analysis is required,which itself requires considerable computational effort.

To overcome the difficulties associated with complex reliabilityanalyses, a number of authors have proposed the use of the Re-sponse Surface Method (RSM) [69], whereby a so-called responsesurface function (RSF), which is a more computationally efficientand explicit mapping of the response surface, is used as a surrogateor emulator of the actual response surface. In the original RSM, RSFscommonly take the form of low order polynomials (usually qua-dratic). However, the accuracy of such functions in approximatingthe shape of the actual LSF is limited due to the rigid and non-adaptive structure assumed [10]. This, in turn, limits the accuracyof the estimated Pf. More recently, artificial neural networks(ANNs) have been proposed as alternative RSFs to those employedusing the RSM [1017]. These models have been shown to outper-form the traditional RSM due to their superior mapping capabili-ties and flexible functional form [10]. ANNs also have theadvantage of being applicable to higher dimensional problemsthan the traditional RSM [18].

Despite these advantages, ANNs have not been widely used inreliability analyses of complex systems due to the large numberof implicit LSF evaluations that are still required for fitting theANN model. In most applications of ANN-based RSFs, samples havebeen generated by standard Monte Carlo simulation (MCS), whichmay lead to an insufficient covering of the mapping domain, partic-ularly for problems with low failure probability. This is illustratedin Fig. 1, which shows that, using standard MCS, the most probablesampling domain results in limited samples about the limit stateg(X) = 0, even if the number of samples is large. This would thenlead to an inadequate description of the limit state, which is the re-

Fig. 1. Inadequate coverage of the mapping domain obtained with standard MCS.

Please cite this article in press as: Kingston GB et al. Computational intelligenstructures. Struct Saf (2010), doi:10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

gion of the actual response surface that must be represented mostaccurately for the successful application of RSFs in reliability anal-yses. However, attempts to reduce any inaccuracies in the limitstate description by generating a larger set of samples for fittingthe ANN then leads to a required effort comparable to direct MCSwith the complex FE model.

Whilst a variety of importance sampling strategies have beenproposed, these are not without their limitations [4]. In this paper,a new adaptive sampling technique based on a genetic algorithm(GA) is presented for focusing the sampling of the actual LSF to-wards the limit state. This method exploits the population-basedsearch and exploration capabilities of GAs to provide efficient cov-erage of the entire parameter space with the most densely sampledarea being that around the limit state g(X) = 0. This enables themost accurate mapping of the ANN-based RSF in the most impor-tant region.

The remainder of this paper is structured as follows: in Section2, the development of an ANN-based RSF for flood defence reliabil-ity analysis is described, whilst in Section 3, the new GA adaptivesampling method used to help train the ANN is presented, togetherwith its advantages over conventional sampling regimes. In Section4, application of the ANN together with the GA adaptive samplingapproach is demonstrated in a case study involving the reliabilityanalysis of the 17th Street flood wall, which catastrophically failedwhen Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The use of the ANN-based RSF in a Monte Carlo based reliability analysis is comparedto direct MCS of the actual implicit LSF in order to assess the accu-racy and efficiency of the proposed method and the results are dis-cussed in relation to their implications for flood risk modelling andmanagement. Finally, in Section 5, the conclusions of the paper aredrawn.

2. ANN-based RSF

Whilst the LSF describing a complex failure mechanism may notbe known explicitly, for N limited discrete samples of X = xn, wheren = 1, . . . ,N, the implicit LSF g(xn) can be evaluated. The aim indeveloping a RSF is to find the explicit function gX that providesthe best fit to the set of discrete samples {g(xn), n = 1, . . . ,N}. It isthen assumed that if the approximating function gX fits the dis-crete samples sufficiently well, particularly in the region aroundthe actual limit state g(X) = 0, a reliable estimate of the probabilityof failure can be obtained. However, one of the difficulties associ-ated with this approach lies in the fact that the limit state in mostrealistic structural problems has a highly nonlinear, yet unknown,functional form [9] and that this function is difficult to approxi-mate to a sufficient degree of accuracy given only limited discretesamples of X.

ANNs are especially suited for use as RSFs, as they are able to ex-tract a complex, nonlinear inputoutput mapping from syntheticdata samples without in-depth knowledge of the underlying impli-cit LSF. Furthermore, once developed, ANNs are relatively quick torun; the necessary characteristic that makes RSFs valuable in situa-tions where quick estimation is required (e.g. in MCS where re-peated evaluations of the LSF are performed). A significantadvantage of the ANN modelling approach over the more traditionalpolynomial RSFs is that, being data-driven and model-free, ANNs donot require any restrictive assumptions about the functional form ofthe LSF, as the latter methods do. In fact, their flexible functionalform makes it possible for ANNs to model any continuous functionto an arbitrary degree of accuracy and, as such, they are often con-sidered to be universal function approximators [19,20].

Originally designed to mimic the functioning of the brain [21],ANNs are composed of a number of highly interconnected process-ing units called nodes or neurons. Individually, these nodes only

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Fig. 2. Layer structure of a MLP. Fig. 3. Operation of a single node.

G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx 3

carry out rather simple and limited computations; however, collec-tively as a network, complicated computations can be performeddue to the connectivity between the nodes and the way in whichinformation is passed through and processed within the network.Multilayer perceptrons (MLPs), which are a popular and widelyused type of ANN, were used in this study. As their name suggests,these ANNs are made up of several layers of nodes. The nodes arearranged into an input layer, an output layer and one or moreintermediate layers, called hidden layers, as shown in Fig. 2. Ageneral description of a MLP and its mathematics is given inAppendix A.

When an ANN is used to approximate the LSF, each sample ofthe basic variables xn = {xi,n, i = 1, . . . ,K} is received at the inputlayer, which contains K nodes corresponding to the K basic stressand resistance variables. This information is then transmitted toeach node in the next layer via weighted connections, where theweight determines the strength of the incoming signal. At thenodes, the weighted information is summed together with a biasvalue and transferred using pre-defined (usually) nonlinear activa-tion functions, before being transmitted to the nodes in subsequentlayers. This process is shown in Fig. 3. The signal y generated at theoutput layer is the predicted value related to gx. ANN-based RSFscan either be used for functional approximation, where yn gxn,or for data classification, where yn Igxn 6 0 and where I[] isan indicator function equal to 0 or 1 dependent on whether thesample xn is in the failure or safe domain.

In order for the network to perform the desired function, appro-priate values of the network weights, w, which are the free param-eters of the model, must be estimated. This is carried out through aprocess known as training (calibration), where the model outputs yare compared to the target values y = g(x) or y = I[g(x) 6 0] and theweights are iteratively adjusted to minimise the difference, or er-ror, between these values. The appropriate complexity of theANN must also be selected, where complexity is adjusted byincreasing or decreasing the number of hidden nodes. In generalapplications of ANNs, it is often desirable to minimise the complex-ity such that the model does not overfit to noise in the trainingdata. However, there will not be any noise in synthetic data gener-ated from a simulation model and, therefore, overfitting is not aconcern. Nevertheless, in the interests of parsimony, efforts shouldbe made to select the smallest network able to adequately capturethe underlying relationship in the data.

3. Genetic algorithm adaptive sampling

The success of an ANN-based RSF hinges on the quality of thetraining data used for developing the model. This data set mustrepresent the overall domain in which values of X are likely tobe obtained by simulation. In [17,22], it was argued that, in orderto avoid the situation illustrated in Fig. 1 and to achieve a valid

Please cite this article in press as: Kingston GB et al. Computational intelligenstructures. Struct Saf (2010), doi:10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

ANN-based RSF, the training data should be selected as uniformlyas possible across the variable space. However, when there is apractical computational constraint on the number of training sam-ples that can be taken, it is much more important that the regionabout the limit state g(X) = 0 is accurately represented, as the esti-mated Pf is most sensitive to discrepancies between gX and g(X)in this is the region, as illustrated in Fig. 4. Therefore, a more accu-rate ANN approximation of the actual LSF can be obtained if sam-pling is focused towards the region about the limit state and fewersamples are taken elsewhere.

GAs are a general purpose stochastic search technique that canbe used to solve complex optimisation problems. In the applicationpresented in this paper, a GA is used to optimise the sampling pro-cess used to obtain a suitable training set for fitting the ANN-basedRSF. This method is based upon that employed by Khu and Werner[23], where a GA was also used for mapping the response surface ofa computationally intensive model.

Inspired by Darwins theory of natural selection and survival ofthe fittest, GAs work by employing genetics-inspired operatorssuch as selection, crossover and mutation to evolve from one popu-lation of solutions to the next by selectively sharing informationamong the fittest members. The evolutionary process starts froma completely random population and occurs over a number of suc-cessive iterations, or generations, where the new populationformed in one generation becomes the population from which anew population is evolved in the next, and so forth.

If the problem is defined such that samples lying on the limitstate are assigned the maximum fitness level, the GA adaptivesampling process can be set up such that it begins by sampling uni-formly across the entire feasible variable space, but, over a numberof generations, focuses sampling towards the region about the lim-it state surface. Typically, when a GA is used for optimisation, ini-tial generations are discarded and only the final fittest member, orset of members, are retained. However, it is the initial generationsof the adaptive sampling process that provide the overall, albeitcoarse, representation of the entire domain of X. Therefore, usingthis method, all samples are retained from the first generation tothe last, to enable a coarse uniform coverage of the entire domainof X, with significantly more detail provided in the important limitstate region.

When using a GA for mapping the response surface, it is impor-tant to obtain an optimal balance between exploration and exploi-tation [23]. The focus, in this case, should mainly be on exploringthe variable space, particularly in the regions of interest, as op-posed to when a GA is used as a search routine and the aim is toquickly converge to the optimal point(s). To prevent convergenceof the adaptive sampling process to a single point on the limit statesurface, a niching technique is used to maintain diversity in thesamples around the wider limit state surface. The main steps inthe GA adaptive sampling process are described as follows:

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Fig. 4. Potential discrepancy between g(X) and gX when uniform sampling of the variable space is employed.

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Step 1: Define the feasible domain of X by placing upper andlower limits on the basic variables. Initiate the GA by ran-domly and uniformly generating an initial population ofchromosomes (samples) within the defined feasible searchspace, where each chromosome is made up of a number ofgenes that contain real values of variables.

Step 2: Assess the fitness of each individual chromosome by eval-uating the corresponding value of the implicit LSF. In thisstudy, the implicit LSF is defined in terms of a factor ofsafety, Fs, as follows:

Pleasestruct

gX Fs 1 3

where Fs = R/S and failure occurs when Fs 6 1. Therefore,the fitness function used to assign the greatest fitness tochromosomes near the limit state surface is given by:

Fitnessi 1 Fsi2 4

where i represents the ith chromosome. The niching tech-nique, known as fitness sharing [24], is then applied toprevent the GA from converging to a single point on thelimit state surface. The fitness sharing mechanism is givenas follows:

/dij 1 dijr

if dij < r

0 otherwise

(5

where dij is the distance between samples i and j and r isthe niche radius, or sharing threshold. The parameter /(dij) is used to modify the fitness of sample i as follows:

dFitnessi FitnessiPMj1/dij

6

where M is the number of samples located within theneighbourhood of the ith individual. In the case wherean individual is alone in its niche, its original fitness valueremains intact.

Step 3: Select a number of parent chromosomes from the popula-tion to fill the mating pool which contributes offspring tothe next generation. In this study, tournament selection[24] was applied, whereby pairs of chromosomes competeto be selected and fitter chromosomes are given a greaterchance of contributing to the next generation, whilst lessfit chromosomes die out.

Step 4: Apply a genetic crossover operator between pairs ofselected parents to produce offspring, which form the nextgeneration of chromosomes. There are a number of differ-

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ent forms of crossover operator. In this paper, the twochild staggered average crossover operator [25] wasapplied, as this operator has been designed to exploit thecontinuous nature of the variables.

Step 5: Mutation is the final step in the generation of child chro-mosomes. This ensures that the evolution does not gettrapped in unpromising regions of the search space. Thestep size mutation operator [25] was used in this study,as it was also designed for continuous variables.

Step 6: Steps 25 are repeated until some maximum number ofgenerations has been reached. See [24,25] for furtherdetails of GAs and their operators.

The primary advantage of the GA adaptive sampling approach isits ability to provide focused samples in the important limit stateregion; thus, reducing the computational burden involved in train-ing the ANN-based RSF. However, other notable advantages of thismethod include the following:

The GA adaptive sampling approach is relatively independent ofthe dimension of the problem, in that a greater number of sam-ples is not necessarily required for higher dimensionalproblems. Apart from the requirement of upper and lower bounds on the

basic variables, the sampling method does not impose anystrong assumptions on the model (which includes the basicvariables and the actual and approximate LSFs). This gives themethod an advantage over, for example, importance samplingmethods that require the selection of an appropriate samplingdistribution based on assumptions about the problem at hand. GA adaptive sampling can handle any shape of the limit state

boundary g(X) = 0. As a result, it does not suffer from many ofthe problems associated with importance sampling methods,such as low sampling efficiency when the limit state functionis concave with respect to X, or a non-identifiable unique max-imum likelihood point when the limit state function coincideswith a contour of fX(x) the region of interest [4]. Sampling is performed in real parameter space and therefore no

transformations to standard normal space are required. The search for the limit state does not require information

about the gradient of the LSF and, therefore, does not requirethat the derivatives of the LSF with respect to the basic variablesbe estimated. The sampling procedure can theoretically be used in conjunc-

tion with any LSF (implicit or otherwise) and the flexible fitnessfunction can be defined according to the specific outputs of themodel used.

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4. Case study flood wall at 17th Street Canal in New Orleans

4.1. Background

The flooding that took place in New Orleans in August 2005 as aconsequence of Hurricane Katrina was widely publicised and welldocumented (see [1,2] for example). Analysis of the flood protec-tion system in the aftermath of the event has shown three primarymechanisms that led to structural failure of different elements ofthe protection system: overtopping of concrete I-wall structures,leading to rear slope erosion and subsequent structural failure;overtopping causing crest erosion and subsequent failure of earthlevees; and the lateral sliding of I-walls due to geotechnical failurewhen hydraulic loading levels remained below the structure crestlevels [26,27]. The latter failure mechanism arose along an I-wallsection of the 17th Street drainage canal protection system [27].This failure, the focus of the case study, is of particular interestdue to its below design-level nature and the significantly exacer-bated consequences that resulted.

Post event geotechnical analysis has shown that a shear failuresurface formed along a clay layer beneath the foundation of the le-vee and I-wall. The surface extended laterally into the floodplainwhere it exited vertically through the marshland [27]. Evidenceof this type of failure was seen by the the lateral displacement ofI-wall sections by 10 m into the floodplain and the vertical uplift-ing of a wooden hut on the levee by 2.5 m. Finite element modelshave proved a successful tool in modelling failures of this type.

4.2. Finite element model

Since the 17th Street Canal flood wall breach was geotechnical,complex and catastrophic in nature, the finite element analysisprogram, PLAXIS [28], was used to analyse the behaviour of thiswall. The FE model set up used to model the section is shown in

Fig. 5. Plot of the FE model for the 17th street flood w

Table 1Soil parameters used in the FE model.

Soil Model Behavio

1 Brown clay MohrCoulomb Undrain2 Gray clay MohrCoulomb Undrain3 Marsh under levee MohrCoulomb Undrain4 Marsh free field MohrCoulomb Undrain5 Sensitive layer under levee MohrCoulomb Undrain6 Sensitive layer free field MohrCoulomb Undrain7 Intermix zone Soft Soil Model Undrain8 Gray clay horizontal MohrCoulomb Undrain9 Gray clay vertical MohrCoulomb Undrain10 Sand MohrCoulomb Drained

a C-cohesion in pounds per square foot (psf), /- friction angle (deg).

Please cite this article in press as: Kingston GB et al. Computational intelligenstructures. Struct Saf (2010), doi:10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

Fig. 5. The geometry of the section was taken from [1], wherePLAXIS was also used to perform a FE analysis of the wall section;however, in this study, a somewhat simpler FE model with a lessrefined mesh was used to save on computation time [29,30]. Ascan be seen in Fig. 5, the section has seven soil layers, which weredescribed in the model by the 10 resistance soil parameters givenin Table 1. The MohrColumb and Advanced Soft Soil models wereused for predicting the behaviour of the soil layers. Where possible,the MohrColumb model was applied in preference to more ad-vanced soil models, as its computational run times are consider-ably less than the more advanced models and it generally givesgood results for failure prediction. All soil parameters were treatedas uncertain properties and modelled as random variables. Thesevariables were all assumed to be Gaussian and data from the geo-technical analyses conducted by Independent Levee InvestigationTeam [1] were used to define the parameters of these distributions(mean and coefficient of variation (CV)), which are also given inTable 1.

The behaviour of the flood wall was modelled for a single givenwater level (loading condition). The breach that occurred in August2005 did so when the water level was between 7 ft and 8 ft (2.132.44 m) above mean sea level (AMSL) [1]. In the study carried outby Rajabalinejad et al. [30], it was found that the failure probabilityof the wall at a water level of 8 ft AMSL was 43.6%. However, in thisstudy, the reliability of the flood wall was assessed when subject toa water level of 4 ft (1.22 m) AMSL, since, for fragility, it is neces-sary to cover the whole range of loading conditions and the advan-tages of the proposed efficient reliability analysis approach canbest be demonstrated at low failure probabilities.

4.3. GA sampling

Using the PLAXIS FE model, the factor of safety Fs against slidingcan be calculated using two methods: the first is by the /C reduc-

all and its foundation, as modelled with PLAXIS.

ur Distribution type Parametera Mean CV

ed Normal C 900 0.2ed Normal C 600 0.2ed Normal C 375 0.3ed Normal C 200 0.3ed Normal C 200 0.3ed Normal C 180 0.3ed Normal / 23 0.3ed Normal C 100 0.3ed Normal C 11 0.3

Normal / 36 0.3

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Table 2Parameter values used in the GA adaptive sam-pling procedure.

Parameter Value

Population size 100No. of generations 20Probability of crossover 0.7Probability of mutation 0.2Mutation step size 0.2Niche radius 7

6 G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx

tion technique [31], which is only applicable when samples are inthe safe domain (i.e. when gX > 0) and returns values greaterthan one. The second method provides a parallel definition of Fsand is applicable only when samples are in the failure domain(i.e. when gX 6 0). This method computes the percentage of totalloading that will result in structural failure, which returns valuesless than or equal to one. Whilst these definitions of Fs are similarin their representation, their values are not directly comparable.Therefore, it is more appropriate to use only one method to evalu-ate (3) on one side of the limit state. The latter method based onpercentage of total loading was selected for this, as it is signifi-cantly more computationally efficient than the /C reductionmethod and it provides a better quality mapping of the responsesurface in the region of most interest, gX 6 0. The fitness functiondefined by (4) was then used in the sampling process, where Fs wasdetermined by the percentage of total loading when samples lay inthe failure domain, whilst samples in the safe domain were as-signed a value of Fs = 2 (since the percentage of total loading meth-od is not applicable when the structure is in a safe state). SettingFs = 2 for all samples in the safe domain gives these samples anequivalent minimum fitness value to a sample that fails under noloading, which is appropriate given that it is not possible to distin-guish between those samples that are close to or far from the limitstate g(X) = 0 when the structure does not fail and the percentageof total loading is used to define Fs.

Before beginning the GA sampling process, it was first necessaryto define upper and lower limits for the soil parameters given inTable 1. To ensure that the normally distributed soil parameterswere not significantly truncated by the limits placed on themand that the resulting sampled parameters could be used to accu-rately estimate structural reliability, these limits were set equal to3.5 times the standard deviation on either side of the mean,accounting for greater than 99.9% of possible soil parameter values.It was also necessary to define a number of basic parameters usedby the GA. These are given in Table 2. The last four parameters inthis table were selected based on values reported in the literatureand the characteristics of the problem at hand, whilst the popula-tion size and number of generations were selected to allow suffi-cient convergence to the limit state by the final generations anda sufficient number of overall training samples (20 100 = 2000training samples).

Shown in Fig. 6 are the resulting samples of soil parameter X3(marsh under levee) versus soil parameter X8 (gray clay horizontal)from generations (a) 15; (b) 610; (c) 1115; and (d) 1620 of theGA sampling procedure, where it can be seen that the GA had thedesired effect of focusing the sampling toward the limit state sur-face. In Fig. 6e, which shows all 2000 samples, the success of theprocedure in achieving a rather coarse coverage of the entireparameter space with very dense coverage in the important regionis demonstrated. The coarse, roughly uniform coverage wasachieved primarily in the first 500 samples (Fig. 6a), whilst the last500 samples (Fig. 6d) are all densely concentrated in a small regionof the space. It can also be seen that the number of samples inthe failure domain increases dramatically between the first 500

samples and the last. In fact, this proportion increases from 16%(11% in the first generation) to 68% (79% in the 20th generation).It was previously found that soil parameters X3 and X8 had thestrongest influence on the probability of failure of the 17th Streetflood wall [29] and it was, therefore, expected that any patternsof convergence to the limit state would be most evident in theseplots. However, it should be noted that similar patterns of conver-gence were also evident in plots of the other soil parameters.

4.4. ANN-based RSF

The 2000 samples output from the GA sampling process includevalues of the soil parameters given in Table 1, together with theircorresponding values of Fs (where 0 6 Fs 61 in the failure domainand Fs = 2 in the safe domain). As these responses do not properlyrepresent the actual implicit LSF in the safe region, it was consid-ered more appropriate to use the ANN model for classification ofthe failure and safe domains, rather than for functional approxima-tion. Therefore, all values of Fs 6 1 were assigned a value of 0 (fail-ure), while responses of Fs = 2 were assigned a value of 1 (safe).

The generalisability of an ANN, which is its ability to infer a gen-eralised solution to a problem, can be estimated by evaluating itsout-of-sample performance on an independent test data set. There-fore, the available 2000 data points were divided into a training set(80%) and a test set (20%) using the SOM data division method de-scribed in [32], such that each set maintained similar statistics. Atrial and error process was then used to select the appropriatenumber of hidden layer nodes, whereby a number of networkswere trained, while the number of hidden nodes was systemati-cally increased until the network which performed best on the testdata was found. Only single hidden layer MLPs with a hyperbolictangent (tanh) activation function on the hidden layer nodes andlogistic sigmoid activation at the output layer were considered inthis study, as this configuration is best suited to data classification.The error function used for training was also selected to suit theclassification problem and is given by:

E XNn1

yn logyn 1 yn log1 yn 7

where y is the actual binary target value of Fs and y is the ANN out-put signal, which, as a result of the logistic sigmoid transfer at theoutput node, can have values between 0 and 1 (i.e. y is the predictedvalue of binary Fs). There are a number of algorithms available forANN training, backpropagation being the most popular; however,in this study a GA was also used for training the ANN models devel-oped. This involved a similar approach to that described in Section 3,but it did not involve niching (as the aim was to converge to a singleoptimal weight vector); fitness was defined as Fitness = E, where Eis the error function given by (7); and only the single, optimalweight vector was retained.

Model performance (as opposed to the fitness function usedduring training) was defined in terms of percentage of samples cor-rectly classified as being in the failure or safe regions. Based on thismeasure, the results of the trial and error hidden node selectionprocess are shown in Fig. 7. It can be seen that, whilst the percent-age of samples correctly classified increases with network size forthe training data set, the generalisability does not improve signif-icantly beyond that of the 1-hidden node model. A 2-hidden nodeANN was able to classify two additional test cases correctly (result-ing in an increase from 95.5% of cases correctly classified to 96%),but the addition of one hidden node results in an ANN model withalmost double the number of weights (25 in comparison to 13 forthe 1-hidden node ANN). Therefore, a 1-hidden node ANN was se-lected as the RSF. Overall, this model correctly classified 1917 ofthe 2000 (95.9%) data samples generated using the GA sampling

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Fig. 6. GA samples from (a) generations 15, (b) generations 610, (c) generations 1115, (d) generations 1620, and (e) all generations.

G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx 7

process, which contained 36.9% defence failed states and 63.1%safe states. Therefore, it was concluded that this model was ade-quate for the needs of performing a reliability analysis. The 1-hid-den node ANN model can be written as a one line equation:

y 11 exp tanh

P10i1wiXi w11

w12 w13

h in o 8and can easily be incorporated into a MCS procedure.

4.5. Monte Carlo based reliability analysis

To assess the reliability of the 17th Street Canal flood wall givena water level of 4 ft AMSL, MCS of the selected 1-hidden node ANNmodel was performed, providing 10,000 predictions of failed andsafe defence states corresponding to 10,000 random combinations

of the uncertain soil parameters. These results were then processedto determine the probability of failure of the flood wall for thisloading situation. As mentioned in Section 1, a MCS was also per-formed where the failed and safe defence states were computed di-rectly using the complex PLAXIS FE model. This was done in orderto gain some appreciation of the level of accuracy and efficiencythat can be achieved using the proposed ANN-based RSF. There-fore, both methods used the same sample of soil parameter combi-nations, which enabled the percentage of defence states correctlyclassified by the ANN to be assessed.

With direct MCS of the actual LSF, it was found that the actualprobability of failure of the flood wall was equal to 16% at a waterlevel of 4 ft AMSL. In comparison, MCS of the ANN-based RSF re-sulted in an estimated probability of failure of 12%. The ANN wasable to correctly classify 93% of the 10,000 MC samples as beingin the failed or safe regions, which was considered to be a reason-

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Fig. 7. Number of hidden nodes versus % correct classification rates for the trainingand test data sets.

8 G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx

able level of accuracy to be achieved by a significantly simplermodel. However, of the 7% of samples that were misclassified bythe ANN, 78% were in the failure region (as identified by the PLAXISmodel), which resulted in the lower than actual estimated failureprobability. In the attempt to diagnose why these samples mayhave been incorrectly classified, all 10,000 samples were clusteredinto groups of similar input combinations using a Self-OrganisingMap (SOM) [33]. This has the effect of reducing the multi-dimen-sional input data to a two-dimensional space, such that any pat-terns existing within the data are enhanced. If misclassifiedsamples were found to cluster together, this would suggest thatsignificant relationships exist between the soil parameters andthe state of the flood wall that were not captured by the ANN.

Shown in Fig. 8 is the 9 10 SOM grid used to cluster the datasamples, which was selected based on the resulting within- andbetween-cluster similarities and dissimilarities, respectively. Inthis figure, different sized circles are used to represent the differentproportions of similar input samples contained in each grid cellthat were correctly and incorrectly classified by the ANN model.For example, in cell [9,10], the single dark gray circle indicates that100% of samples in that cluster were correctly classified by theANN model, whilst in cell [2,1], the light and dark gray circles ofapproximately the same size indicate that approximately half ofthe similar samples in this cell were misclassified. As can be seen,there are no obvious patterns between the clustered input data andthe classification results (i.e. misclassified samples do not appearto cluster together), which suggests that no significant inputout-put relationships remain uncaptured by the ANN. Therefore, it wasconcluded that possible reasons for misclassification are due to theinner intricacies of the FE model and the inability of these to berepresented by the much simpler ANN model, rather than any

Fig. 8. SOM grid displaying clustered data samples.

gross misrepresentations by the ANN model. Where the uncertain-ties introduced by this approximation are significant, similar ap-proaches to those employed with the traditional RSM can beemployed, whereby the differences between the emulator (ANNin this case) and the actual response surface are representedthrough an error term [4].

The total time required to develop and run the ANN-based RSFwithin a MCS is dependent upon the time required to generate thetraining and test data using the GA adaptive sampling method; thetime taken to train a number of ANN models in order to select theappropriate complexity; and the time required to run the ANN forthe required number of MC samples. For complex LSFs, the major-ity of time is spent on the first component; generating the data.Therefore, the efficiency of the proposed ANN-based approachcan be assessed based primarily on the average time required forone evaluation of the implicit LSF and the number of evaluationsrequired to develop an ANN-based RSF, in comparison to the num-ber of evaluations required for direct MCS with the PLAXIS model.In this study, the time required for one evaluation of the PLAXIS FEmodel was approximately 1 min. Therefore, the computationaltime required for the direct MCS was approximately 1 week, incomparison to the 1.4 days required by the ANN-based RSF method(and the 1.6 h required to train and select from four different ANNmodels and the 5 s taken to perform a MCS of the 1-hidden nodeANN-based RSF). Whilst this may not seem like a sufficiently sig-nificant saving in computation time to warrant the application ofthe proposed technique, flood defence reliability is typically repre-sented by fragility curves, which give the probability of failure con-ditional on a range of loading conditions (see 2). To develop afragility curve for the 17th Street Canal flood wall given a rangeof water levels between 4 ft and 9 ft with a 1 ft increment (i.e.six loading conditions) would take approximately 6 weeks usingdirect MCS of the PLAXIS model, whilst it would take just over1 week (8.4 days) using the ANN-based RSF approach. Therefore,the savings in computation time gained through the increased effi-ciency of the proposed ANN-based RSF method become much morebeneficial, with the actual savings achieved being proportional tothe complexity of the FE model.

5. Conclusions

In this paper, an ANN-based RSF approach for producing robustestimates of complex failure probabilities given limited evalua-tions of the actual implicit LSF has been presented. The methodcan, in principle, be applied to situations and is most appropriatefor application when evaluation of the LSF is computationallydemanding. The GA adaptive sampling procedure used to generatethe training samples overcomes the limitations of standard MCS oruniform sampling strategies in problems with low failure probabil-ity by focusing the sampling toward the important limit state re-gion and, as a result, enabling a more accurate representation ofthe actual implicit LSF in the region in which it most impacts thefailure probability estimate. The focus of the proposed approachwas not on achieving maximum gains in computational efficiency,but rather on developing a robust method for flood defence reli-ability analysis that takes advantage of both the improvementsin efficiency that can gained through using a simplified model toemulate a complex response surface and through the continualimprovements to computer hardware. Therefore, the approach isseemingly less (algorithmically) efficient than the original RSM,which, by necessity, relied upon very few calls to the actual LSF,but involved some rather crude approximations to the problem(e.g. the quadratic RSFs which provided insufficient representationof the actual LSF). However, in the development of new structuralreliability analysis procedures, the improvements to efficiency that

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G.B. Kingston et al. / Structural Safety xxx (2010) xxxxxx 9

are continually being gained through improvements to computerhardware should not be ignored, as such improvements generallymean that less approximate and more robust methods can bedeveloped.

The ANN-based RSF method, combined with GA adaptive sam-pling, is most beneficial for assessing the reliability of critical flooddefences where failure could result in catastrophic flooding and forwhich there are sufficient geotechnical data to define variations inthe soil foundation. Such methods are expected to become increas-ingly important in future, as sea levels rise and existing flood de-fences age and deteriorate, no longer providing the targetedstandard of protection they were designed to achieve. The 2005New Orleans flood event, where the catastrophic failure of flooddefences occurred when water levels were below design eleva-tions, highlighted the fact that it is no longer appropriate to offera single assured standard of protection from flooding, but ratherthat it is necessary to assess the reliability of flood defence systemsover time under varying conditions. The proposed method offersan efficient means for analysing critical defence reliabilities, whereactual structural properties are considered instead of those as-sumed for design purposes, which will aid in the identification ofsystem vulnerabilities and the minimisation or avoidance of futurecatastrophes related to critical flood defence failures.

Appendix A. Feedforward multilayer perceptron

There are many different types of ANNs in terms of structureand mode of operation. These are generally classified accordingto network topology and type of connectivity between the nodes,the type of data used, the way in which the network learns theunderlying function and the computations performed by eachnode. Feedforward multilayer perceptrons (MLPs) are a very popu-lar and widely used ANN structure for prediction and response sur-face approximation problems.

The general structure of a MLP is illustrated in Fig. 9. The inputlayer receives input information, generally in the form of a vectorof observed or pre-processed data values x = {xi, i = 1, . . . ,K}, whereK is the number of input or predictor variables. No processingoccurs at this layer, rather the input layer nodes serve only totransmit the input information, in a feedforward direction, tosubsequent layers in the network. This is done via weighted con-nections, where each node in the input layer is connected to everynode in the first hidden layer, such that the input information isredistributed across the all of the nodes in the hidden layer. The in-put to the jth node in the first hidden layer is then the sum of theweighted values from the input layer with the addition of aweighted offset, or bias, term:

Fig. 9. General structure of a MLP.

zinj w0;jx0 Xki1

wi;jxi 9

where x0 denotes the bias and is typically set equal to 1. The resultzinj is then transformed by the nodes transfer, or activation, func-tion to generate an activation level for that node (see Fig. 3):

zj hzinj 10

The transfer function h() may be any continuous differentiable func-tion, but is commonly sigmoidal at the hidden layer nodes or linearat the output layer. Each of the activations from the first hiddenlayer nodes are then transmitted to and processed by the nodes inthe subsequent layer in a similar fashion to that described for thefirst hidden layer. This process is continued until the informationreaches the output layer. The activation level generated at themth output node is the prediction ym of the mth dependent variableof interest.

The training of a MLP can be compared to the calibration ofcoefficients in statistical models. During training the aim is to findvalues for the connection and bias weights so that the outputs pro-duced by the ANN approximate the observed training data well.ANNs, like all mathematical models, work on the assumption thatthere is a real function underlying a system that relates a set of Kindependent predictor variables xK to M dependent variables ofinterest yM. Therefore, the overall aim of ANN training is to inferan acceptable approximation of this relationship from the trainingdata, so that the model can be used to produce accurate predictionswhen presented with new data. Thus, if the function relating themeasured target data to the model inputs is given by:

yM f xk;w 11

where f() is the function described by the MLP, w is a vector ofweights that characterise the data generating relationship, theaim is to find the best estimate of the weight vector. This is typicallydone by iteratively adjusting and optimising the weights such thatsome function of the difference between the measured target datayM and the predicted outputs yM (e.g. the sum squared errorEy 12

PyM yM2 is minimised.

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http://www.plaxis.nlhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.strusafe.2010.08.002

Computational intelligence methods for the efficient reliability analysis of complex flood defence structuresIntroductionANN-based RSFGenetic algorithm adaptive samplingCase study flood wall at 17th Street Canal in New OrleansBackgroundFinite element modelGA samplingANN-based RSFMonte Carlo based reliability analysis

ConclusionsFeedforward multilayer perceptronReferences

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