The five-story, 14,772-m2 (159,000-sf) Catalyst building in Spokane, Washington, has opened its doors, marking the culmination of a collaborative effort of diverse industry partners to create a transformative, real-world prototype for sustainable development.
Anchoring the new South Landing eco-district neighborhood in Spokane, the Catalyst building and the adjacent Scott Morris Center for Energy Innovation demonstrate new building techniques, materials, and a sustainable shared energy model that is central to the goal of making Catalyst one of the largest zero-energy buildings in North America and one of the first zero-carbon buildings to be certified by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI).
Catalyst is the result of a unique collaboration between a cross-industry team of partners including Avista Development, construction engineering company McKinstry, technology company Katerra, and the Eastern Washington University (EWU).
The South Landing neighborhood started with a vision when Avista’s then-CEO and current chairman Scott Morris conceived and set out to create “the five smartest blocks in the world.” Morris’s idea was to create a real-world model for sustainable, efficient, and forward-looking development in which smart buildings are deeply integrated with the grid and talk to each other to better manage demand, while leveraging onsite renewable energy generation and storage during peak loads.
“With the foundation for the five smartest blocks in the world now in place, Catalyst and the South Landing Eco-District prove what is possible when industry leaders work together to think big and test bold ideas,” said Morris. “What we have created is so transformative and innovative, it will serve as a new model for collaboration across industries. Together, we are reimagining the future of energy and sustainable development. What we learn will support a reliable, affordable, and clean energy future for all of us.”
The Catalyst building employs innovative, integrated systems for onsite renewable energy generation using photovoltaic (PV) arrays, heating, lighting, and exhaust heat and gray water recovery, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to optimize operation.
Catalyst’s design, by Michael Green Architecture, uses roughly 4000 m3 (141,259 cf) of locally sourced mass timber products as both structural and design elements, enabling Catalyst to achieve near-Passive House levels of thermal performance. Incorporating mass timber into Catalyst also reduced the need for steel and concrete, helping to collectively offset approximately 5000 metric tons of carbon.
“This project is really special for MGA because it brings together a lot of the thought and ambition we have around how we can start to change both the environmental performance and the affordability of buildings,” said Michael Green, principal, Michael Green Architecture. “It is the beginning of what we think will be the transformation of the construction industry, moving away from the more carbon-intensive materials like concrete and steel, and toward mass timber as the best choice when making a carbon-neutral building.”
Catalyst and the recently opened Morris Center were designed in tandem to test the innovative new shared energy eco-district model. The main idea of the eco-district is to have buildings that work together to actively manage energy loads and balance onsite energy demand, generation, and storage in real-time to reduce the impact on the grid. A centralized heating, cooling, and electrical system reliably, sustainably, and affordably serves the energy needs of current and future buildings in the South Landing development. In addition to heat pumps, boilers, and chillers, the Morris Center houses thermal and electrical storage as well as onsite renewable energy generation that can be stored and shared. South Landing and Catalyst aims to show how utilities can partner with property owners to operate their buildings in a manner that better utilizes the existing grid and could lead to a more affordable, clean energy future. EWU is the anchor tenant for Catalyst.