As Concerns Over Climate Change Rise, More Developers Turn to Wood

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Although it was established in 1873 near some of North America’s most productive forests, Spokane has rarely focused on new timber products in construction. But that is starting to change.

In the city’s downtown, Eastern Washington University has moved into the Catalyst Building, a five-story, 150,000-square-foot structure, the first tall wood office building in Washington State. Sunshine pours through the $40 million building’s large windows and bathes the wood beams and laminated wood floor and ceiling panels.

Built by Katerra, a construction company based in Menlo Park, Calif., Catalyst is the newest of 384 large “mass timber” buildings in the United States. The first was built in Montana in 2011, and according to industry figures, 500 more are under construction or planned.

The cross-laminated wood panels used for Catalyst were manufactured at Katerra’s 270,000-square-foot automated plant on the outskirts of the city. The $150 million plant is the newest and largest of nine in the United States that make laminated wood panels, and three more are in development.

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