It is clear that building energy performance plays an essential role in architecture and in architectural practice, not only for reasons of occupant comfort and energy efficiency but also for minimal code compliance. While achieving energy compliance is essential and even laudable, our current definition of “building performance” is somewhat limited. Energy performance analyses are often performed solely for code compliance with a minimal feedback loop during the design process. In the instances when analyses are completed as part of design, a growing array of simulation tools allow designers to make more informed decisions during the design process. There is tremendous potential in this trajectory.
The use of parametric and other performance analysis tools to help design professionals simultaneously achieve superior performance as well as delightful aesthetics represents an emerging chapter in the design professions. This paper will highlight a handful of sample undergraduate thesis and design/build projects which focused on the investigation of performative material systems as part of a larger design challenge. In each of these examples, “performance” went beyond the prosaic. Instead, these projects identified a particular environmental necessity based on the project situation (the need for water, the need for cleaner air; and so on). Inspired by natural systems or by emerging materials engineering, the students used multi-modal methods to explore their design ideas (parametric digital models; physical models at multiple scales; simple as well as complex math; and so on), ultimately resulting in an enhanced performative system that in turn influenced overall building form. In each case, it was performance that informed design, while simultaneously striving to appeal to the senses through an exploration of beauty.
 For the duration of this paper, the term “building performance” or simply “performance” will be used, with the intended focus on building energy performance and resource use.