Bernt Johnson, a Washington State University civil engineering alumnus and licensed structural engineer, is the primary structural engineer and project manager for the Washington Place project in Tukwila, Washington.

At 19 stories tall, Washington Place will be the tallest building in Tukwila, and signals a shift in the evolving Tukwila landscape. The building will have about 370 apartments, a 189 room hotel, and more than 500 stalls in its detached parking lot.

Johnson graduated from WSU with his bachelor’s degree in 2009 and master’s degree in 2011 in civil engineering. Upon graduation he has worked as a consulting engineer providing structural engineering services for commercial building type structures. He is currently employed as a structural engineer at the Seattle based structural engineering firm Lund Opsahl.

Washington Place during construction in Tukwila, WA
Washington Place during construction in Tukwila, WA

What are your current projects?

In addition to Washington Place, a few of the more notable projects I am currently working on include a six story office building in Seattle, for Facebook and a 14-story parking/office building in Portland, Oregon, near the Moda Center.

What is it like designing a high-rise building?

The Washington Place Project is the first high-rise in which I led the design. While daunting at first, I tried to approach the project understanding that the building has the same basic structural systems as any other building– just much larger! This project has been particularly rewarding to watch as it has been built since it stands out so much from its surroundings. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a structural engineer is to see a project you worked on being built.

What are the most important things to know when designing a hi-rise?

It is important to remember that while the project may seem large, you just take it one step at a time. When you step back and look at the end goal- it can seem overwhelming. If you just focus on one design piece at a time, before you know it the building will start to really take form before you know it.

How has your time at WSU helped in your career?

One thing that stands out to me is that Washington State University prepares its engineers to enter the work force with practical knowledge that can be directly applied to real-life projects. While that seems like it is such a basic requirement, some schools focus so much on the theory and do not relate it to real life problems. I feel WSU grads have a leg up and are able to hit the ground running when they get that first job.