This paper presents an approach for familiarizing architecture students with concepts of environmental performance in the early design stages. A design studio was run at the University of Technology Sydney by Leena Thomas and the author where students were applying building performance analysis to inform their design process from the very beginning of the semester. Students were using parametric design and evolutionary structural optimization in conjunction with environmental performance optimization. Michael Hensel and Defne Sunguroglu (Ocean North) joined the studio at half time for a workshop to investigate how processes occurring in nature can be mapped to inform the morphological design process. In spite the multitude of challenges put to the students during the semester in regard to their design methodology and techniques, they were able to produce highly performative and aesthetically pleasing design outcomes.