A catalyst for change


Lance Kissler

Graphic of Cheney catalyst building .

By Karlee Van De Venter, Reporter

For over two years, construction has been underway for the new Catalyst Building on EWU’s Spokane campus. On September 17, the completed building was unveiled to the world through a live-streamed grand opening. It began with words from Scott Morris, chairman of Avista, the energy company involved in the $60 million project.

“While we’re doing it virtually today, we want you to know that we want you here,” Morris said. “When you can come safely, you have to come experience this building.”

For now, it is unknown when the building will be open to the public. 

Morris also mentioned that the Catalyst Building has become the greenest, most sustainable building in North America. It will operate on net-zero operational energy. This means that all greenhouse gas emissions from the building are neutralized by carbon-free energy production.

Following Morris, EWU’s newly-appointed interim President David May spoke as well. He mentioned that the building resides within the traditional boundaries of the Spokane Native American tribe, whose ancestors contribute to the learning environment. 

May also mentioned his predecessor Mary Cullinan and her contributions to the project, as well as all of the companies partnered with EWU. 

(Left to right) Katerra President of Construction Mike Rock, EWU President Mary Cullinan, McKinstry CEO Dean Allen, Avista CEO Scott Morris, Spokane Mayor David Condon and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell prepare to break ground on the Catalyst Building in Spokane. The five story, 150,000 square-foot building is scheduled to open in 2020. (Jeremy Burnham)

May outlined that the following programs would be fully moving into the catalyst building by next winter: computer science, electrical engineering, design, all business programs and creative writing. He said this process has already begun. 

David Bowman, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, talked about how the moving programs will impact Spokane. The newly-housed programs will see the community around them and have ties to the industries that live there. Students will also collaborate with other programs within the building, creating a more rounded understanding of the field. 

“[The Catalyst Building] is going to change education at Eastern,” Bowman said. “And through that, it’s going to change Spokane.” 

Next to speak was Craig Curtis, president of Katerra Architecture, another partner in the Catalyst Building project. He spoke about how sustainable the building is and how the project achieved net-zero operational energy. 

Curtis mentioned that he drove through 250 miles of smoke to attend the grand opening. This was his indication of how beneficial projects such as the Catalyst Building are, and that there are many benefits of those projects. 

Graphic of Spokane catalyst building. (Lance Kissler)

“This industry is so ripe for change,” Curtis said. “And the size of the opportunity is massive.”

The last person to speak was Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry, another partner of the project. 

“It was done on time and on budget through a pandemic,” Allen said. “And that took an incredible amount of resilience, resourcefulness, innovation, and the spirit of partnership and can-do.” 

Allen spoke about Cullinan as well, and how signing on for this building showed how Cullinan and EWU put students first. The students who will learn in the Catalyst Building will be working alongside community members. 

McKinstry has also developed a small grants program for multidisciplinary undergraduate research at EWU. 

Following Allen’s words was a video walkthrough showing of the building, featuring classrooms, lounges, research stations, conference rooms and more. The recorded livestream can  be found here