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One of the largest zero-carbon, net-zero buildings is rising in Spokane

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Sustainable Design and Construction

One of the largest zero-carbon, net-zero buildings is rising in Spokane

Catalyst will be part of an innovation hub, with Eastern Washington University as its main tenant.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | April 9, 2019

The 159,000-sf Catalyst building will be eastern Washington's first net-zero-energy ready building. Image: McKinstry

The engineering firm McKinstry, in partnership with energy provider Avista, has been a driving force behind the development and construction of what is being touted as one of the biggest zero-energy, zero-carbon facilities in the world.

Catalyst is a five-story 159,000-sf anchor building for a planned innovation center that will connect—via the under-construction Gateway Bridge—to the University District in Spokane, Wash. Catalyst’s construction includes 4,000 cubic meters (141,200 cubic feet) of cross-laminated timber and glulam products, which would store an estimated 3,713 metric tons of carbon dioxide and avoid 1,437 metric tons of carbon emissions. That would be the equivalent of taking 1,100 cars off the road for a year.

The McKinstry-Avista partnership is called South Landing Investors LLC, which is this project’s primary investor. McKinstry is the project’s developer and is providing design-build services. Katerra, Catalyst’s general contractor, is sourcing the engineered wood from its new Spokane Valley CLT factory. Katerra’s Michael Green Architecture designed the building. KPFF is its structural engineer.

McKinstry—which is also handling the mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, and electrical engineering—is working with the Living Future Institute to validate Catalyst’s zero-energy status. As currently designed, no fossil fuels will be combusted on site, with additional carbon sequestration efforts in play to offset emissions from natural gas ovens and other end-user appliances.


Eastern Washington University is leasing 57,000 sf to move its STEM program into Catalyst. Image: McKiinstry


Catalyst is on track to open in April 2020. It will monitor its operational efficiency via smart building management systems, thousands of IoT sensors, and data visualization driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence. The entire hub is also being developed to be delivered at market cost to ensure that it creates a replicable model. (An Avista spokesperson told the Spokane Spokesman-Review last year that Catalyst’s construction would cost more than $50 million.)

The building would be the first in eastern Washington to be net-zero ready. Its main tenant will be Eastern Washington University, which is leasing 57,000 sf to accommodate three programs—computer science, electrical engineering, and visual communication design—that EWU is moving to Spokane from its College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Cheney, Wash. STEM is the university’s fastest-growing curriculum.

That move will include 50 faculty members and 1,000 students. Within Catalyst, EWU will offer dry labs and modern, high-tech classrooms. Space will provide immersive education opportunities via a learning, living laboratory. 

Avista and Katerra will also lease office space within Catalyst, along with similar, like-minded tenants. The City of Spokane has committed $430,000 in street improvements, water services and other infrastructure for the Catalyst building.

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