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Catalyst Building, an integrated living laboratory for new sustainability technologies

MGA | Michael Green Architecture

Education  /  Completed
MGA | Michael Green Architecture
The Catalyst Building is the first office building in Washington State constructed out of cross-laminated timber (CLT). It is pursuing Zero Energy and Zero Carbon certification by the International Living Future Institute, which would make it one of the largest buildings in North America to meet both standards. The building intends to be a fully integrated living laboratory for new sustainability technologies, materials, construction techniques, operational practices, and design.

Located in Spokane, Washington, the 164,800 sq. ft., 5-storey Catalyst Building is the first completed building in a highly sustainable district called the South Landing Eco-District. This leading-edge project sets the standard for additional buildings that will be built in this district. The program includes offices, classrooms, common study areas, an Innovation Lab located on the ground floor, and will house Eastern Washington University’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs. The building is connected to the University District by way of the Gateway Bridge – a pedestrian bridge that brings together the two university core areas over an operational train track. Intended as a place where industry and academia can intersect to innovate and collaborate, the building required flexible spaces for both office and academic multi-functional uses. The floor plates were designed to be simple but long span to meet the program requirements.

The ambition of the project team was to design and construct a mass timber building that could exceed the performance of a comparable steel and concrete building while showcasing the benefits of CLT concerning aesthetics, building efficiency, and environmental impact. This goal was realized using over 4,000 cubic metres of CLT and glulam products, which have stored 3,713 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. The CLT panels used in the building were sourced from local working forests, harvested using sound ecological practices, and manufactured 15 miles from the site.

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the building, authored by the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington, concluded that the carbon storage of the timber nearly offsets the embodied carbon impact of construction. By focusing on lower-carbon building materials, the conversation around sustainability in the built environment can be broadened from only operational carbon to total – operational and embodied – carbon emissions over a building’s lifecycle.

“Passive-first” strategies include water use reduction by rainwater capture, envelope design using Passive House standards, and durable material application to achieve a design life expectancy of 75 years. The building’s airtightness test results were outstanding with Catalyst’s building envelope performing at three times the airtightness required for the Passive House Standard. The Catalyst Building also previews the future of the energy grid by drawing from a centralized energy plant where power is shared between multiple buildings through a shared energy model called an eco-district. Renewable on-site energy generation and storage, and shared heating and cooling services across multiple buildings are tightly integrated with the grid. Additional sustainable building features include low water flow plumbing, shower rooms to encourage commuting by bike, and smart building management to maximize building operations efficiency.

The Catalyst Building symbolizes both Spokane and Washington State’s commitments to sustainability and serves as a hub for growth in the region.


 United States
 14063 mq
 MGA|Michael Green Architecture (Design Architect), Katerra (Architect of Record)
 MGA: Michael Green, Mingyuk Chen, Kyle Elderhorst, Paul McBride, Maria Mora, Deagan McDonald; Katerra: Craig Curtis, Drew Kleman, Patrick Schwartzkopf, Ondrei Poliak, Jordan Onley, Pete Kanyer
 Mass Timber Engineering + Product – Katerra; Structural Consultant – KPFF Consulting Engineers; MEP– McKinstry; Civil Engineer – DCI Engineers; Vertical Transportation – Lerch Bates; Acoustic Consultant – Aercoustics Engineering Ltd; Landscaping – Bernardo Wills Architects; Geotechnical – AECOM; Code – Code Unlimited; Envelope – RDH Building Science Inc.
 Benjamin Benschneider


MGA | MICHAEL GREEN ARCHITECTURE is one of the most internationally recognized architecture firms in Canada. Beyond the four Governor General’s Medals for Architecture and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Architectural Firm Award, we are recognized for our innovation in sustainable architecture and developing carbon-neutral buildings with advanced wood construction.

Our firm was founded in 2012 by Michael Green, who is known for his research, leadership, and expertise in building with timber products. In fact, he wrote the book on the subject, authoring 'The Case for Tall Wood Buildings' and popularizing the phrase ‘mass timber.’

From our head office in Vancouver, BC, our exceptionally talented and experienced staff of architects, interior designers, urban planners, and researchers work on projects from tiny boutique interiors to large institutional buildings locally and internationally. Our clients and projects engage the local community and tackle climate change.


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