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Streamlining facility design and build-out can minimize financial risk

Cannabis growers are increasingly taking a design-build approach to constructing their grow facilities, especially when facing tight deadline requirements between licensing and cultivating.

Involvement from the outset with a design-build team — architect, engineers, general contractor — simplifies the overall construction process, helps to eliminate ugly surprises and costly errors, while carrying much less risk for the owner.

Phase 1: Obtaining the license

The application for a license to cultivate, process and sell cannabis can be an extremely costly and competitive process in itself. As laws become increasingly exclusive, some state governments require that applicants demonstrate a readiness to produce cannabis within a short timeframe.  For example, the last licensing round in Florida required that applicants demonstrate the ability to begin cultivating within 30 days of registration.

That said, it is advantageous, if not imperative, to have a design-build team on board to prepare conceptual design drawings that document all license application points, specifically outlining the requirements for a facility. Including professional design documents within an application will help achieve a maximum score on the checklist of items relating to the facility and may also increase the point value in other sections of the application relating to capability and readiness.

Items typically included in the conceptual design package are: site location plan, existing topographical survey, proposed site plan, building elevations, floor plans, life safety plan and security plan.

In addition, a design-build team allows for early planning, budgeting and value-engineering to occur, enabling substantial cost savings and speed to market after winning a license.


Phase 2: Planning and building

The design-build team that worked on the license application should fully complete the facility design, building plans and then drive the development schedule.

Many key decisions are required early in the design process to enable integration of critical vendor data, as well as engineering of the building and operating systems. An experienced design-build team will quickly take the cannabis grower through cost-to-value pricing scenarios to squeeze every bit of value from decisions associated with the site, including the shell, climate systems, lighting, grow systems, security, automation and other technologies.

The design-build team will begin the process of procuring essential materials. In many cases, materials for construction will be sourced from around the globe, requiring careful timing of production, shipping, processing through customs and final delivery to the site. All items are vital to maintaining strict compliance with the development schedule.

When a design-build team is involved early and throughout the planning stages, the actual construction becomes streamlined, cutting even more time from the final delivery date. Moreover, the financial risk is minimized when a single source of responsibility oversees licensing, design and construction.

The traditional “design-bid-build” process lacks the same efficiency, which can lead growers into a senseless cycle of wasted time and dollars. Imagine spending time and money completing a design, only to find that it far exceeds your budget and does not properly integrate with your programming and operational requirements. The last thing an owner wants is to squander precious resources, especially when cost and timing are critical factors. A design-build team will bring transparency to the table, starting with and managing an approved budget, monitoring all key metrics, addressing critical tasks in the proper order and managing the overall progress of the project development.

From licensing to finished facility, a design-build team brings multiple benefits to a cannabis cultivation operation that seeks to initiate production, sales and revenue at the earliest possible date.


Mark Gemignani is chief executive officer of DominionAG, a design-builder of automated growing facilities and a division of Miami-based Dominion Builders. DominionAG provides comprehensive planning, design and construction services coordinating the requirements of its clients with the expertise of horticultural experts, architects, engineers, greenhouse manufacturers and automation designers. For more information, visit www.dominion-ag.com.


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