Significant research has been undertaken focusing on the application of evolutionary algorithms for design exploration at conceptual design stages. However, standard evolutionary algorithms are typically not well-suited to supporting such optimization-based design exploration due to the lack of design diversity in the optimization result and the poor search efficiency in discovering high-performing design solutions. In order to address the two weaknesses, this paper proposes a hybrid evolutionary algorithm, called steady-stage island evolutionary algorithm (SSIEA). The implementation of SSIEA integrates an island model approach and a steady-state replacement strategy with an evolutionary algorithm. The combination aims to produce optimization results with rich design diversity while achieving significant fitness progress in a reasonable amount of time. Moreover, the use of the island model approach allows for an implicit clustering of the design population during the optimization process, which helps architects explore different alternative design directions. The performance of SSIEA is compared against other optimization algorithms using two case studies. The result shows that, in contrast to the other algorithms, SSIEA is capable of achieving a good compromise between design diversity and search efficiency. The case studies also demonstrate how SSIEA can support conceptual design exploration. For architects, the optimization results with diverse and high-performing solutions stimulate richer reflection and ideation, rendering SSIEA a helpful tool for conceptual design exploration.