Simplifying the Cannabis Cultivation Facility Design & Build Process – D. P. Diaz Construction

Cannabis Cultivation Facility
Cannabis Construction

The design and construction of a cannabis cultivation facility can be a complex process, which requires thorough planning and input from a variety of professionals including the owners, operators and professional consultants. To retrofit, a multitude of variables should be considered. Here’s a partial list that’s a good place to start for evaluating the layout of your future cannabis cultivation building project. Considering these items as early in the project schedule will more likely result in a project that is completed on-time and less expensive, higher-yields, higher-quality and overall a more-efficient operation in an industry that continues to grow.

Evaluating the Suitability of your future cannabis cultivation building

Evaluating an existing building means considering a variety of types and conditions, each with their own pros and cons, unique features affecting a cannabis cultivation facility conversion project. Things to consider include the following:

1. Structure Condition – It’s beneficial to have a structural engineer survey the building to confirm that no deficiencies exist. If rooftop mechanical units are planned, the structure must be evaluated to verify that it has the capacity to support the additional load or if it can be reinforced. If the site allows, it’s often preferred to mount the mechanical equipment on the ground around the perimeter of the building so the roof structure is not impacted.

2. Ceiling Heights – Minimum clearance of 10′ feet is desired under the roof, though having more than 14 feet of clearance is even better. This allows enough room for lighting, ductwork and sprinklers, while still allowing plenty of space between the lights and and the cannabis plants.

3. Materials & Contaminants – Buildings that are older frequently have contaminants such as asbestos, lead paint and mold hiding throughout. These items can be abated or encapsulated to provide a clean envelope, but it will require additional time and money… and peace of mind. Being aware of this upfront so that these costs can be factored into the budget is soooo important. Framing in walls and roofs also can be problematic, as it can affect the project’s allowable square footage or trigger a sprinkler requirement once wasn’t there.

4. Utility Services & Capacity – The building’s previous use may need to be factored in, the utilities (water, electricity, sanitary and storm sewers) may not be properly sized or located for cultivation use. So important to coordinate with the architect, and the civil, electrical and plumbing engineers to determine your facility’s utility needs early on in design, so you are prepared when evaluating. A site with adequately sized utilities can save thousands in design, construction and utility district fees and hassles. Go a step further to confirm service from the proper utility districts with ‘Will Serve’ letters is the best way to ensure you have the utilities needed.

Electrical Considerations – Cultivation facilities need a considerable amount of power to handle the lighting, de-humidification and cooling requirements. Depending on the lighting and mechanical systems selected, this can range from 25 watts to 35 watts per square foot. In facilities greater than 15,000 square feet, 480V/3-phase power will decrease the electrical distribution system and allow for a more cost-effective installation. If the utility cannot provide the power needed, options for site-generated power exist, but these are generally expensive.

Water Service – The size of the domestic water service to the building will most likely need to be increased to handle the additional restrooms, showers and irrigation system. Depending on the age of the building and the local utility, backflow prevention might need to be added. A sprinkler system may also be necessary to satisfy building code requirements, based on the size, configuration and type of construction.

Sanitary Sewer – The location, routing, size and depth of the sanitary drainage should be determined. If existing drawings of the system are not available, having a video sewer inspection will provide valuable information on the system’s configuration before design proceeds. Contact the local waste water department, as some call for the installation of waste-water-monitoring stations and have specific requirements on how these need to be installed.

Site Evaluation, what’s the Best Fit?

In addition to the types of buildings available, it’s important to review and compare site constraints when selecting a facility location. A great building space can be deemed useless by poor site access, poor utility infrastructure or site drainage problems.

5. Parking Access and Site Access – It’s important to find a build site that meets your facility’s project and business requirements, your staff, distributors, suppliers, customers, partners should all be considered when discussing access to the cannabis grow facility. Space for supply trucks accessing docks will make deliveries, pickups easier. This helps make your business more efficient and profitable.

6. Drainage & Grading – Water pooling up or standing ponds in the winter or summer can be a major concern and is a common problem for industrial businesses due to the large amount of building area, large parking lots and oversized loading-docks. It’s good to evaluate your site and determine all existing storm water drainage areas is crucial to avoiding damage your future structure. The ideal site drains away from your cannabis cultivation building, sheet-flowing water or have storm water inlets throughout the outdoor paved areas.

Location and layout of grow rooms will drive the design/build of the rest of your cultivation building project. Sketch out potential layouts that will help you to consider all options while helping you to determine if the selected building is suitable for a cultivation building conversion project.

7. Efficient Operation Optimization – The efficient arrangement or utilization of spaces and its function is the most important aspects of a properly designed grow facility. Cautiously consider how plants will move throughout the cannabis cultivation process, build according to the course of cannabis grow cycles and processing to ensure that employee productivity and time are not flushed down the toilet.

8. Existing Structure Proportions – Existing buildings will typically come each with their own unique features some will affect the layout and your vision on how your facility should be ideally laid-out. Proportions, exit and entrances, column grid, plumbing locations, offices are more often than not, in the most ideal location for general daily production. The design phase is an important time to analyze which features will be easy to modify versus what is not and needs to be worked around. There’s a tendency to reuse existing elements such as restrooms or offices with the focused idea of saving only money. Normally it makes more sense to just start with a clean sheet of paper to un-complicate the way in which your grow facility should simply flow. All components should be arranged in their most ideal locations, constructed to current building standards.

Proceed Understanding the Jurisdiction Process

The jurisdictions that be are still currently sorting out how to regulate the cannabis cultivation industry so be prepared for unforeseen changes! Additionally, cannabis business practices and financial regulations, cannabis facility development will require local jurisdictional planning, engineering and construction permitting approvals before any work starts to the site.

9. The Zoning Code – The jurisdictions do not currently have a specific cannabis cultivation facility zoning type, these facilities fall into several different use types per local zoning code (indoor agricultural, garden and cultivation, commercial processing, etc.). review carefully the existing or proposed zoning codes for your future site. Knowing what is permitted is a must and can often lead to ideas and options you weren’t previously considering due to lack of knowledge. Renovation construction projects change in use, more often requires rezoning or conditional approvals from city or county jurisdictions.

10. Engineering Permitting & Building Permitting – Improvements to any site engineering, changes like to the grade and topography of the site, up-sizing or the addition of new/improved utility lines, and adding new access areas to the site are all considered new engineering improvements and are separate from the building improvements. These new improvements follow a separate review and approval process entirely, typically these also need to be approved prior to the building permit. Cities/Counties differ in which submittals are required for engineering review, so involve a local engineer early and meet with the city or county to confirm the process beforehand.

If this article has helped you understand some aspects of building or converting and existing building into a cannabis grow or cultivation facility and you’d like more information or to talk with our build consultant, click here or

949-388-0537 Contact Us for a FREE CONSULTATION.


D. P. Diaz Construction, Inc. – construction cannabis, cultivation facility design, professional grow room installation, grow facility security, 420 friendly, grow room design consulting, warehouse grow setup, mosaic construction cannabis, commercial cultivation facility, cultivation facility design, cultivation facility build, cultivation facility builder, cultivation facility Contractor, indoor grow facility, warehouse grow setup, large scale grow rooms

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