Marshalltown Generating Station Entrance Sign

From Whiteboard Design to Entrance Sign

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get a design just right. It’s a given for the design of an entire facility — but what about something as simple as an entrance sign? When you’ve dedicated three years of your life to the success of a project, and spent 50 percent of your time away from home at the engineer’s office or the plant site, every detail matters. 

I’ve been the project manager for Alliant Energy’s Marshalltown Generating Station since 2016, after taking over from the previous project manager. It’s one of those projects that will stick with me for the long haul — a 650 MW state-of-the-art, combined-cycle natural gas-fired power plant that reduces emissions and powers a half million Iowa homes. It’s the nation’s first Envision Platinum Verified power plant in commercial operation, thanks to effective teamwork between Alliant and our in-house sustainability team. 

Marshalltown Generating Station

Marshalltown Generating Station has a lot of great design features — and the finishing touch is its unique entrance sign. I owe the success of the sign’s final design to my team member, Aerin Klump. Aerin moved from Michigan to Iowa as our onsite field engineer at the beginning of 2017 and has dedicated as much to this project as I have. The first design used a simple foundation to support a sign that stood on a metal pipe with a pile of rocks placed at random around it. It just didn’t feel right for a facility that’s setting the bar for power generation facilities across the Midwest. Aerin and I talked with Alliant, and we all agreed a stone wall design that supported the sign would be a better fit. So we started coming up with ideas. 

Aerin Klump, HDR

The task was simple enough, but we’d put so much of ourselves into this project, and we wanted the design to be perfect. After several iterations using a straightforward stone wall design, we were struggling to find a design that met both Alliants’ goals and the functional/durability the sign needs. So we applied the tried and true method of drawing and editing on a white board.

Welcome to Marshalltown Generating Station!

The design you’re looking at took shape on a white board in Aerin’s office as we were wrestling with one of the many revisions of the design. Aerin literally wiped away part of the previous design and re-drew a new one. We stood back, looked at the white board sketch for a second, looked at each other, and simultaneously agreed this was the design the client was going to love. And you know what? We were right.

It’s the gateway to a project we’re proud to have under our belts.