Design in the Hills: Thursday Morning Recap, Part I

By Terri L. Miller, AIA, NCARB, CDT

Cement Plant Tour. Photo Credits: Terri Miller

Design in the Hills is one of my favorite AIA South Dakota Events. I would encourage anyone to join if they are able. Every year, the tours are either in Rapid City or the surrounding area. There are usually some very interesting and different things to tour, and the Board always does a great job of making getting our CEUs interesting.  

Design in the Hills ’22 was no exception to this rule, and this year we were in Rapid City.  Bright and early on Thursday morning we met to sign our waivers and load the bus.  I have always taken a waiver signature required as a good sign of the tour to come. We donned our name tags and boarded a bus to the Dacotah Cement plant. We were welcomed into the plant, where they fed us an exceptional breakfast, gave us some background on the company and then divided us into groups to tour the plant, with PPE and tour guide provided.

As the name of the tour suggested, “Walk the Line with Cement production”, our tour guide took us through some of the different parts of the plant to show us how the raw materials would move through the plant. He talked us through where most of the raw material comes from, the pneumatic system, and I am certain quite a few of us picked up some of the ‘crushing media’ – those nice round rocks to line our pockets. If you didn’t, I am sorry you missed out.

Cement Plant Tour. Photo Credits: Terri Miller

While in the control room, we were able to see the interior of the kiln. Our tour guide along with the control room operations team, described to us what they were watching on the screens and the process that the material was going through. They also discussed the maintenance of the plant, and the ongoing nature of the facility. That plant runs nearly year-round.

I happened to notice a blueprint framed on the wall. I was told that the State of South Dakota started the cement plant. This was done to help push South Dakota forward. The drawing was from one of the additions to the plant. I always find it interesting to come across a frame blueprint. An architect had stamped that drawing, signed it and then pushed it out the door to get it built. A process many of us could relate to.  He probably didn’t even consider that one day that sheet of the drawing set would be framed and living on a wall for others to see.

We were ushered out of the control room and up the elevator to the tippy top of one of towers. The view was awesome and we were able to get an overview of all the spaces we had walked. Throughout the tour, I found it most interesting to be able to listen to our guide describe the several steps in the process, not only at the plant, but where the material was coming from. It was awesome to have the firsthand knowledge and narrative from the crew. He was able to answer all our questions and guide us through the plant. I look forward to next year, and what tours that will bring.

Cement Plant Tour. Photo Credits: Terri Miller

Cover Image: View from the top of the cement plant tower. Photo Credits: Terri Miller

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