A new method is presented for optimum cross-sectional design of planar frame structures combining reinforcement learning (RL) and metaheuristics. The method starts from RL jointly using artificial neural network so that the action taker, or the agent, can choose a proper action on which members to be increased, reduced or kept their size. The size of the neural network is compressed into small numbers of inputs and outputs utilizing story-wise decomposition of the frame. The trained agent is used in the process of generating a neighborhood solution during optimization with simulated annealing (SA) and particle swarm optimization (PSO). Because the proposed method is able to explore the solution space efficiently, better optimal solutions can be found with less computational cost compared with those obtained solely by metaheuristics. Utilization of RL agent also leads to high-quality optimal solutions regardless of variation of parameters of SA and PSO or initial solution. Furthermore, once the agent is trained, it can be applied to optimization of other frames with different numbers of stories and spans.
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