Indigo Member Spotlight

The built environment is one of the largest contributors to climate change, consuming 48% of total energy use in the US and 76% of power plant generated electricity (Architecture 2030). The multifaceted approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change will, therefore, need to include a transformation of the built environment’s use of energy and materials. More specifically, the building sector must readdress how buildings are designed, built, and operated to limit the initial and lasting impact of the building on the natural environment. Simultaneously, as the effects of climate change become more severe, buildings will become increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of severe weather events and disasters. This has the likely potential to compromise the ability of government and emergency services to respond to such events. Therefore, building design must evolve to ensure buildings can withstand severe weather events and disasters in order to ensure society is resilient to the effects of changing climate. In the Sacramento region, Indigo| Hammond + Playle Architects, LLP is leading the way in this design approach by incorporating green architecture into the design of buildings in order to minimize energy and resource use while also being climate-resilient. Indigo achieves these goals while simultaneously integrating art, architecture, and ecology to create beautiful and functional spaces for its wide range of clients.

A word from Indigo

“As our climate continues to change and we see more extreme summers and winters, CO2 spewing, inefficient buildings will take more and more energy to heat and cool. Thus increasing the amount of fossil fuel needed to keep the interior space at a livable temperature. This creates a negative feedback loop of ever more CO2 pollutants, causing global temperatures to rise even further. With this knowledge, Indigo has focused their design efforts to create climate-adapted buildings by manipulating sunlight, wind, and using building materials that remain functional and comfortable for occupants, while using the least amount of energy.


Located in Davis, California, Indigo is comprised of LEED accredited and Zero-Net Energy (ZNE) architects who create productive, energy-saving and beautiful spaces using green architectural practices. Indigo’s architects are leaders in the field. Over the past several decades, Indigo’s principle architects have demonstrated their commitment to the natural environment using climate adapted architectural practices such as passive solar. Indigo works closely with its wide variety of large and small clients, in both private and public sectors across all of California including Sacramento, the Bay Area, the Central Valley and Western Region of the United States.

Harnessing the beauty and power of nature for ZNE

Indigo’s mission is to express the beauty and harness the power of nature through design. From this commitment comes their ability to design buildings that can passively extract energy from the environment ‒ natural light and warmth from the sun; natural ventilation; cooling from shade, breezes and the energy absorbing qualities of water and mass. Harnessing these natural forces, we create spaces that are also more inviting, comfortable and productive for their inhabitants. Buildings designed with these outcomes in mind are also more resilient to our changing climate and the challenges it poses. Such buildings are both adaptive to the realities of climate change and help mitigate it by using dramatically less energy, and even producing their own energy from the sun and air around them.

California’s Executive Order B-18-12 mandates that all new state buildings be designed to consume Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2025. In addition, in order to meet the Carbon reduction goals required to avoid the most extreme climate disasters, all buildings will need to be designed to consume no more energy on average than they produce.

Instead of contributing to climate change by consuming fossil fuels for heating and cooling, ZNE buildings passively draw energy from the environment and collect any extra energy they require from photovoltaics. Indigo’s newly built office demonstrates that buildings designed to extract energy drawn from the environments can be built at NO ADDITIONAL COST, even in the Central Valley’s difficult climate.

Indigo’s  office was one of the first ZNE office buildings to be certified by the International Living Future Institute.  An early example of a ZNE office building, it was 4th office to receive this award, and the 13th of any building type to achieve this status.

Principles of climate adapted ZNE design

Zero Net Energy means that a building or facility is energy efficient, meeting established energy efficiency targets, and consumes no more than it produces from clean, renewable resources over the course of a year.

These are some of the strategies Indigo applies to achieve these goals:

  • Building orientation
  • Solar control
  • Light from the sky
  • Thermal mass stores heat and cold
  • Super Insulation
  • Natural ventilation
  • Energy from the sun for heating
  • Photovoltaics (Solar Panels)
Indigo’s featured projects

Indigo works on a wide variety of projects, large and small, in both private and public sectors. Indigo’s portfolio is comprised a wide variety of projects including transit facilities, fire and police facilities, schools, libraries, city halls, corporation yards and parks and recreation facilities. Given the diversity of projects Indigo works on, they are accustomed to working within set budgets and stringent regulations.

Indigo’s ZNE Office Building

Indigo’s office in downtown Davis is a successful adaptive reuse of a 1960s-era Dairy Queen. The office acts as showcase for the many green architectural practices Indigo champions in its projects. The design utilizes local and sustainable materials to create unique look. Super-insulated strawbale walls and thermal heat sinks maintain a comfortable atmosphere year-round with minimal energy consumption. As a ZNE building, the office receives 90% of its heating and cooling energy from its environment, and natural light provides all lighting during the day.

Practices of climate-adapted “green” architecture utilized by Indigo’s Office include:

  • Zero-Net Energy A building with zero net energy consumption produces the same amount of renewable energy on-site as it uses on an annual basis. Designing this ZNE building involved both minimizing the building’s overall energy consumption as well as integrating renewable energy production on-site.
  • Place-based design emphasizing the use of local resources and consideration of the local climate when developing the design which meets the projects needs, while simultaneously minimizing resources wasted by using local, recycled, and renewable materials.
  • Passive Solar climate controlled interiors These strategies allow the building to store, utilize, and manipulate energy from the natural environment to create a comfortable interior climate with minimal electrical power usage. Such strategies range from window orientation and use of summer shading, to natural conditioning systems which integrate thermal mass in this case, large water filled columns. The columns are heated by the sun in the winter and cooled by the delta breeze in the summer.
  • Natural lighting from skylights and windows allowing daytime use without electric power to light the building.
  • Outdoor space was incorporated into design to help staff feel grounded, more productive, and less anxious. Indigo incorporates shelter from sun and rain and good solar orientation, courtyards to ensure people can remain connected to the natural environment in spaces year-round.
  • Utilization of local, recycled, and renewable materials were used whenever possible. An example of renewable materials, such as strawbales, which Indigo uses to construct curved walls.
Resilient design: Yuba County Sheriff’s Facility in Marysville, Ca

Indigo’s design delivered to the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department the best and most resilient building with the limited budget available. Every improvement considered was evaluated based on law enforcement functionality, life cycle cost and resiliency.  In addition, Indigo’s “extended survivability” design approach to this project was specifically geared to providing a level of emergency preparedness beyond code minimums, often at no additional cost. This approach was based on analyses of potential threats to the operations of the Yuba County Sheriff’s facility.

Resilient design

In addition to mitigating a building’s contribution to climate change, their architectural practices help make the buildings they design resilient to expected severe weather events resulting from global warming. In particular, passive strategies help buildings remain functional in extreme circumstances. In the case of civic buildings, this means that civic and government operations can continue even when the electrical grid is down for an extended period of time. Given the increasingly severe weather events and disasters being experienced across the country which have impacted normal municipal operations, resilient design offers a means to address the need for long-term energy conservation and emergency coping mechanisms to events which threaten power and fuel sources. Indigo’s approach to design creates buildings which are resilient to weather events and disasters, thus preserving the world for future generations.

Yuba county Sherriff’s Facility where all essential functions
of the building are above the 13 foot flood, 100 year plain.

Vacaville ZNE Intermodal Center

This zero-net energy project features roof-mounted photovoltaics that offset site electrical demand. Curved steel pipe roof structures alight on sculpted concrete columns. Refractive glass windscreens, curving, stegosaurus like, along the spine of the benches, produce warm glare-free illumination with hidden LED lights. A glowing clock tower announces the transportation center. Motion-activated LED parking lot lights provide security and efficiency.

Vacaville ZNE Transit Center illuminated at dusk is
both beautiful and functional

Work with Indigo to create ZNE buildings

When you work with Indigo, you not only get three decades of leadership in sustainable design, you also get the focus and collaborative spirit of a small, nimble team. Every project Indigo takes on benefits from the experience of its principals as well as the enthusiasm of its staff. Indigo look forward to working with you to make the built environment better.

Jonathan Hammond, AIA, LEED-AP

Hammond’s practice blends architecture and sculpture to honor the spirit of place. Hammond is a LEED accredited architect who has been a pioneer in the passive solar building and planning movement since the 1970’s. As founder of Living Systems, he helped author the nation’s first energy-conserving city building code. He also designed and built California’s first modern straw bale structure. Before co founding Indigo, Hammond taught Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the Kyushu Institute of Design in Japan and Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Hammond was recognized as 2016’s Passive Pioneer by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for his pivotal role in the emergence of passive solar architecture during the 1970s in California.

Bruce Playle, AIA

With a professional design and planning background and forty years of experience in municipal, educational and commercial facilities in the United States, Mr. Playle has managed large master plan and building projects alike. His special ability in the facilitation of large user groups and committees is a useful tool in reaching design consensus. Mr. Playle believes that the success of a project hinges on understanding client needs, followed by the crafting of a well-managed design and construction process which ensures those needs are met. He is an advocate for the regional design of places, ensuring they reflect user needs, climatic setting, and the cultural diversity of the people who will live and work in them. Playle was an early innovator in the development of design-build for use in both public and private sectors, helping clients build high-quality, functional environments while at the same time realizing savings in cost and time compared to conventional methods.

  • In 2015, Indigo received the Design Award Program from AIA Central Valley, and won citation award for its office in downtown Davis.
  • In 2015, Indigo was a recipient of the USGBC Northern California Award for Innovation for its new adaptive reuse office building.
  • In 2016, Indigo Principal Architect Jonathan Hammond received the Passive Pioneer Award for his early application of passive solar design principles addressing the passive heating and cooling of modern buildings.
  • In 2018, Indigo Architects received the Living Building Challenge Zero Energy Award as the first in the world to Receive a Zero Energy Certification Award for the design of an office building, and the 13th building total to ever achieve Zero-Energy Status.