Architect of the Year transforms District training and knowledge sharing

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
Published Aug. 21, 2023
A portrait of a woman

Breanna McBride, a senior architect at the Seattle District, is the 2023 Engineering and Construction Community of Practice Architect of the Year.

For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2023 Architect of the Year, the best part of the job is helping others reach their full potential. “It’s rewarding knowing that other people are benefiting from the services that I can provide,” said Breanna McBride, a senior architect at the Seattle District.

Each year, USACE’s Engineering and Construction Community of Practice recognizes employees and teams for excellence in performance, leadership, professional development and support. Ms. McBride is the second Architect of the Year from Seattle District since the award’s inception. This award recognizes her contributions to the field of architecture, technical leadership on large, complex projects and her work developing technical lead training and resources.

After leaving the private sector in 2019 to join the Seattle District, Ms. McBride found an institutional knowledge gap among new architects serving as technical leads on military construction projects. Ms. McBride then came up with a simple, yet effective solution: gather resources into a toolkit and start a monthly training series covering different aspects of the job.

“It’s a good place to find all the information. It’s a little bit like a Wikipedia page, where we can all build on it over time, keep improving it and making it better,” said Ms. McBride.

As support grew for Ms. McBride’s toolkit, word spread to other sections and districts. At an American Institute of Architects conference earlier this year, Ms. McBride shared her toolkit with 50 architects from other districts, many of whom now want to implement a similar program back home. This new precedent for knowledge sharing throughout USACE is also a testament to her mentor and trainer roles.

In addition to her work as a senior architect, Ms. McBride is involved in a variety of efforts throughout the district. As the sustainability coordinator, she develops resources, procedures and training to improve awareness of sustainability throughout district projects. Not one to rest on her laurels, Ms. McBride is also developing a sustainability-based toolkit in conjunction with USACE Headquarters and Northwestern Division to be used throughout the enterprise. Lastly, Ms. McBride also leads the monthly Design Branch Users Group meeting to troubleshoot issues and discuss solutions.

“I have a lot of different things that I’m involved in because whenever I see an area that can use improvement, I step up and try to make things better,” said Ms. McBride.

Ms. McBride has a bachelor’s degree in art history and minored in math at the University of California, Los Angeles. And due to her father’s business in the ceiling tile industry, her interest in construction started early.

After earning a master’s degree in architecture at San Diego’s NewSchool of Architecture and Design, she worked on a variety of projects that supported her love of design and logistics, from schools and country clubs to multifamily and residential properties.

A common theme that underpins Ms. McBride’s work, from her architectural projects to her mentorship efforts, is her passion for improving the world. 

“I don’t like to sit by and accept the status quo,” explained Ms. McBride. “I’m always trying to look for ways that we can improve. I think in the architecture, design and construction fields, there are lots of opportunities to have impacts on the built environment, the way people use spaces, providing universally accessible spaces for people, and making sure we’re keeping the environment in mind for sustainability.”