W3: Workshop on the Development and Integration of Modelling Frameworks for Environmental Decision Support

Organised by Andrea Rizzoli and George Leavesley


Title: Supporting Environmental and Energy Decisions Through an Open Software Structure

Authors: Giorgio Guariso, Matteo Baracani


Environmental awareness spreads more and more among citizens and public institutions and thus local governments have to find new tools for policy development, that take into account environmental aspects, allow a wider participation, and increase the transparency of the decisions. For instance, the local Agenda 21 process calls for a wider involvement of all stakeholders in the development of a given territory as the only possible answer to the NIMBY syndrome that risks to block any new project in countries where a minimum of public debate is allowed.

These decision support tools should frame local environmental conditions and foresee how the situation will develop, according to existing trends as well as new government actions. The way in which they are developed should also allow an easy and direct access to the information by (most of) the people involved, should prevent a rapid aging through the possibility of an easy updating, and should support experimentation and testing of alternatives hypotheses by a (large) set of different users.

We derived two basic consequences from these considerations.

First, the process of developing a software tool to support environmental policy decisions is a cyclic one. The developers and the users must work together to determine the aim and scope of the software product and to define the critical aspects of the inquired phenomena and agree on the simplification, or by-pass, of features that do not seem to be basic for the result. The potential users often do not know exactly how the problem can be managed neither they can describe exhaustively how they would like to explore and control both the real system under consideration and the software that represents the system itself and the actions taken over it. Software development must thus be approached with a very flexible method that permits a continuous interaction and prototyping, as suggested by both software engineering and ergonomics.

The second consequences is that implementation software must be as simple and widely used as possible, renouncing to more efficient, application-specific programs, which are often dedicated to specialists and may require a considerable time to familiarise with. Nowadays, the most common software environment is Office-like and most people is accustomed to navigate the Internet through html files. This is why we propose a software structure based on three components: a database with all the relevant past information on the system under study, a set of spreadsheets which allow to easily analyse alternative scenarios, a hypertext detailing hypotheses and procedures to access the database and use the spreadsheets be distributed over the Internet or as a CD-ROM, in order to enhance the level of participation.

The paper shows how this approach has been followed in two quite different projects.

The first is the development of the Environmental-Energy-Plan (EEP) of the province of Cremona in Northern Italy. The purpose of such a plan is to outline the local energy budget, analyse energy resources (one of the most important indicator of economic trend), evaluate related environmental aspects (indicators of life quality) and define the sectors where the local government can intervene to foster sustainable development. The project has been carried out through several meetings with the representatives of local organizations and simple citizens and, while being relative simple from a technical point of view, derives its complexity from the variety of people involved and the need to find a consensus about an important energy and environment problem,

The second project concerns the development of a system to evaluate the reduction of external costs of air pollution following from a number of actions on traffic and/or domestic heating. The PECS project (PM10 External Cost System) covers the entire Lombardy region (more than 1500 municipalities and 8 million inhabitants) and is dedicated to local authorities as well as to technical staff of various offices in the local government. It evaluates the impact on human health of PM10 pollution, analysing human activities (transportation, domestic heating), calculating PM10 emissions (primary and secondary) and estimating the related concentrations. Combining data with the distribution of population (classes and activities) and exposure indexes, the system computes health effects and external costs at a municipality level, allowing the comparison of different pollution policies. The more sophisticated part of the system is the method to transform the emission of pollutants into ambient concentrations, which utilizes the results of a complex distributed air quality model used off-line to evaluate the output of a limited number of emission scenarios.

Title: Temporal and Spatial Modeling using the Object Modeling System

Authors: Olaf David, Allan Andales, Ian Schneider, Frank Geter

Abstract: Modeling Frameworks became popular in recent years as platforms for model development, integration and application within and across institutions, agencies, and research organizations. Different modeling requirements resulted in frameworks that address high level coupling of models or tight coupling of components or provide support for unified ah-hoc post run analysis, sensitivity analysis and parameter estimation. The Object Modeling System (OMS) is being developed by the US Department of Agriculture to facilitate the whole model development and application workflow process using a component-oriented approach. The support of tight coupled temporal and spatial interaction patterns between model components was one of the major objectives in the OMS framework design and implementation. Such interactions are managed at the framework level. This paper will illustrate the basic generic mechanics on representing spatial and temporal entities. It introduces the construction of spatial aware models within OMS. An example will be given that illustrates the creation of live stock/rangeland model for the farm management with respect to the interaction of animal forage demand and plant growth processes in a temporal and spatial context.