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Civil engineering

Fall 2017

Shifting waters

On the south end of Puget Sound, where I lived for a number of years, water surrounds Olympia: Black Lake, Budd Bay, Capitol Lake, inlets, rivers, and creeks. It’s part of the picturesque scenery that I enjoyed daily, until I saw a half-submerged SUV at an intersection. The storms of 2007 flooded some streets, not to mention covering I-5 just south in Centralia. Water had become an unexpected hazard.

We can expect even more heavy storms and major floods, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, as the climate changes. Floods that were once seen every 20 years are projected to happen as much as … » More …

Blue Nile
Fall 2017

Fluid dynamic

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, Yonas Demissie never suffered from lack of access to clean water, but he knew from a young age that it was a serious problem in most parts of his home country.

He remembers reading news and watching documentaries about the droughts and related famine that still impact Ethiopia.

“Why can’t a three-year-old eat his breakfast?” the young Demissie would ask his parents and teachers. “A society should not have an excuse for a child to go hungry.”

According to Water.org, which works to improve access to safe water and sanitation, just 43 percent have access … » More …

Fall 2010

Hans Breivik ’88—About a bridge

Tacoma certainly has had its share of broken bridges. But lately Hans Breivik ’88 has been coordinating the repair of one of them.

The double-bascule bridge across the Hylebos Waterway at the Port of Tacoma was built in 1938 and has been frozen in the open position since 2001. “Double bascule means that it has two leaves that open and close,” says Breivik, a construction management graduate who is now managing the $15 million Hylebos project. “When it worked, it worked on kind of the principle of a teeter-totter.” He raises his arm, imitating the way one arm of the bridge would, with a … » More …

Spring 2003

Solid footing

Ah, for the safety and comfort of computer modeling in a cozy office.

Instead, Thanos Papanicolaou, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Washington State University, found himself in a small boat in the churning waters of the Tacoma Narrows during a “peak tidal event” taking water velocity measurements, soundings, and underwater pictures of the bottom of the channel.

“I was a little nervous,” he admits, recalling his guide’s efforts to avoid vortices in the current.

Papanicolaou and graduate student Kyle Strom have been working to determine exactly how much of a scour hole tides make around the pilings that hold … » More …

Spring 2004

Bridges, docks, and dams

Some of General Construction’s best work is under water

Ron Morford was only 19 when he built his first house. A quarter century later, he’s still in construction-only on a much larger scale. The president and district manager of General Construction Co. oversees projects in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. Annual contracts total between $150 million and $200 million, making it one of the largest construction companies in Washington. The payroll includes 130 salaried staff, plus 400 to 500 laborers and craftsmen.

According to Morford, marine and heavy civil construction accounts for the bulk of the business. He lives on Bainbridge Island, not far from … » More …