Around three quarters of global resource consumption takes place in urban settlements, with corresponding adverse environmental consequences. According to population forecasts this situation will be exacerbated during the coming years. It is therefore imperative that we understand how to design less resource intensive urban settlements. To this end we have developed a new methodology for optimising the layout and form of buildings for their exploitation of available solar radiation, using an evolutionary algorithm. In this way a considerably more exhaustive search of the parameter space is facilitated than what is possible with manual trial and error which has been favoured in past studies.