Making sure buildings perform responsibly is a key issue today, in part due to our global environmental crisis. "Humanities footprint first exceeded the Earth's total bio-capacity in the 1980s; this overshoot has been increasing since then." (Living Planet Report, 2008) Nature is the ultimate in performance-orientated design so it is no wonder that attention is finally being paid to its processes. This paper discusses research from the 2011-2012 academic year at the University of Arizona, where investigation was centered on the principles of natural systems, biomimetics (the abstraction of natural principles into design). The overriding goal of one particular project was to renegotiate the interface between the built and natural environment. This developed in a conceptual and literal sense with material research into the area of porous cellular ceramics and concrete. Controlling the density (the ratio of solid to void space) allowed for a unique material to develop, whose properties could be tightly controlled to environmental criteria. Testing focused on thermal properties, compressive strength and evaporative cooling. The material was ultimately incorporated into an evolutionary, digital design proposal whose form was optimized with the incorporated material research.