Part 2 of 2

If you missed Part 1, find it here on the BCxA website. Part 2 describes the technical aspects of a multi-facility shared services Zero Energy/Carbon project in an“Eco-District.”

At the Frontier

For some readers, Spokane, Washington may seem like a frontier northwestern town and, well, it is – but not in the way you might think!

A group of Pacific Northwest leaders teamed up to create the “five smartest blocks in the world” envisioned by the CEO of regional electric utility, Avista. The project represents a new way to think about sustainability in the built environment, by focusing on lower carbon outcomes and reducing environmental impacts.

This frontier, known as South Landing, or the “Eco-District,” is located near downtown in Spokane’s university district, close to five of Washington state’s major universities, two medical schools and community colleges. It is a prototype for sustainable buildings demonstrating energy innovations.

McKinstry Leads DBOM

The project started with a vision by Avista’s current chairman Scott Morris, who conceived a real-world model for sustainable, efficient and forward-looking development. A cross-industry team of partners pursued the project with design and construction over approximately two years. Partners in the project include McKinstry (design/build/operate/maintain [DBOM] and owner), Michael Green Architecture and Katerra (architectural design), RDH Building Science (building enclosure), Eastern Washington University (anchor tenant) and Avista. The McKinstry building, “Catalyst,” officially opened on September 17, 2020 with a virtual ceremony due to the pandemic.

Tandem Buildings

The first two buildings (~160,000 SF Catalyst and the ~40,000 SF Scott Morris Center for Energy Innovation) were designed in tandem to test the shared energy Eco-District model. The five-story, Catalyst building is a showcase for the latest smart building technology, construction techniques and materials. The Scott Morris Center houses a central energy plant to power both of the buildings, and it contains a laboratory and power plant that allow researchers and building operators to understand and learn from energy practices.

What’s in Eco-District Facilities?

The main idea of the Eco-District is to have buildings that are deeply integrated with the grid and work together to balance on-site energy demand, generation and storage in real-time. The centralized heating, cooling, and electrical system is intended to serve the energy needs of an entire group of buildings far more efficiently than independent power and HVAC systems for each building. Integrated systems for on-site renewable energy generation such as solar PV arrays power heating, lighting, and exhaust heat and gray water recovery, battery storage, and thermal storage. Thousands of sensors track and optimize ambient conditions, air quality, occupancy and other attributes in real-time operation.

The buildings are designed with low waterflow plumbing fixtures, amenities to encourage bike commuting, efficient radiant heating/cooling systems throughout the buildings, as well as smart building management systems to maximize operational efficiency. The 4000 cubic meters of mass timber used throughout Catalyst reduced the need for steel and concrete, helping to collectively offset approximately 5,000 metric tons of carbon, equating to 1,100 cars off the road for a year.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have been installing hardware and software in the Eco-District’s two flagship buildings and the centralized heating, cooling and electrical system that serves them. They will deploy and test novel building technologies and energy-management approaches involved in the Eco-District, including some that were developed by PNNL and tested on its Richland campus.

In this project, researchers hope to demonstrate that these technologies can be deployed cost-effectively in the field while delivering cost savings to building owners, occupants and the electric utility. The value of this technology has been shown on PNNL’s campus in Richland, where it has been installed in 16 buildings, along with a network of 10,000 sensors that record 14 million data points every day. As a result, PNNL can reduce energy costs in its buildings by nearly 20 percent while improving grid flexibility.

Dean Allen, McKinstry: “the cornerstones” of smart integration

Catalyst is pursuing the International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) net zero carbon and energy certifications, requiring real-time data analysis and proof of on-site renewable energy to supply 100% of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis. Additionally, 100% of the operational energy use associated with the project must be offset by new on- or off-site renewable energy, and 100% of the embodied carbon emissions impacts associated with the project’s construction and materials must be disclosed and offset.

“Catalyst and the South Landing Eco-District are more than just another smart building project, they are the cornerstones of a fully integrated neighborhood that will serve as a living laboratory for new sustainability technologies, materials, construction techniques and operational practices,” says Dean Allen, CEO of McKinstry. “Catalyst demonstrates how the built environment can be constructed and operated for our partners, our clients, our communities and our planet to deliver sustainability and impact, not just physical space.”

Breaking: Just this week on September 26, Avista and McKinstry announced the launch of Edo, a startup that leverages technology to help utilities and firms create grid-interactive efficient buildings. Thanks to all the many authors who have written about the South Landing Eco-District.