Residential Location and the Biophysical Environment: Exurban Development Agents in a Heterogeneous Landscape

Abstract. Agent-based models offer a promising framework for analyzing interactions between agents
and a heterogeneous landscape. Researchers have identified a complex of factors that influence
exurban development, including demographic shifts and location attractiveness of natural amenities
as a magnet to amenity-seeking migrants. Attractiveness is often defined in terms of local or on-lot
amenities, including scenic views, the availability of natural features, and low levels of noise. However, exurban-growth models have not fully incorporated a fundamental insight of this literature, that
the location behavior of exurban residents is sensitive to fine-grained variations in their biophysical
environment. In this study we evaluate how agents and households operate in exurban environments
and respond to biophysical features. We simulate household decision-making in terms of preferences
for features such as site accessibility, two-dimensional amenities, and three-dimensional scenic views.
Our results show that, as we build two-dimensional and three-dimensional landscape layers, our
model captures the characteristics of landscape change with increasing accuracy. This approach has
considerable potential to improve our ability to describe development dynamics in heterogeneous
land markets.