A Growing Business: Metal Construction & Cannabis Cultivation

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Canada was the second country in the world to formally and fully legalize cannabis, including its cultivation, possession, acquisition and consumption. Since it did so in 2018, the market has grown dramatically. Growth continued in 2019, when drinks, edibles and topicals were legalized. And even in 2020, a year plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic and related quarantines, Statista measured the Canadian cannabis market at $2.6 billion. 

Straining to get Ahead 

Cannabis is no longer an underground, black-market business. In fact, it’s very big business indeed. With demand suddenly through the roof, the medical and recreational cannabis industries are rushing to build new grow facilities and expand current ones just to keep up with a hungry market. However, even with the massively increased demand, cannabis is no commodity. Cultivators and cannabis entrepreneurs compete fiercely to develop stronger and stronger strains – or to unlock new balances of the compounds within strains to deliver a growing list of different desired effects. Across Canada, growers are looking to establish their competitive edge – or break through with new, better products. 

A Highly Regulated Environment 

Today’s cannabis cultivators are looking for an edge, and that edge begins with the environment in which the cannabis plants are grown. Cultivating market-busting cannabis requires absolute control of every environmental condition, so most growers choose indoor facilities, where a nearly tropical environment can be manufactured and maintained. Temperature needs to be controlled, regardless of whether it’s a muggy summer day or snow is piling up on the roof. Humidity and air movement also need to be precisely managed, giving enough moisture to plants without encouraging bacterial or mold growth. Powerful lighting and treated watering cycles are required to provide artificial seasonal cues to the plant, determining its phase of development and growing cycle – from seedling to growth to fruiting.   

A Demanding Plant 

All this management of temperature, humidity and air might seem like a lot, but it’s actually just scratching the surface. Each strain might require slightly different atmospheric conditions. Within a single grow facility, multiple different temperatures, varying levels of humidity and stages of growth likely exist next-door to each other to support the growth of different strains. This also requires extensive ceiling-mounted equipment, such as lighting systems, HVAC, MEP infrastructure, fire protection, mechanical, plumbing, electric, condensing units, watering systems and indoor blowers. All this ceiling-mounted equipment increases collateral load significantly.  

As you can see, cannabis cultivation isn’t as simple as planting a seed. It demands much more of its structure than most industries. Luckily, Robertson’s vast experience in metal construction is ideally suited to outperform these demands – from structural requirements and performance characteristics to durability and cost. Let’s take a closer look. 

The Perfect Match 

Metal buildings – and the unrivaled features of insulated metal panel (IMP) construction, in particular – are the perfect match for cannabis cultivation. IMPs provide the entire building envelope, including the air, water and vapor barrier in a single product. IMP’s also have a built-in, foamed-in-place insulated core. So, instead of multiple trades installing multiple layers of the building envelope, a single trade can do it in a single step, reducing time, cost and exposure – and expediting dry-in times so interior trades can move in sooner. They not only withstand the consistent intense indoor humidity required in the cultivation process, but also extremes of cold, heat, rain and drought outside. 

Imagine how long it would take multiple trades to install sheathing, water, air and vapor barriers, insulation and a rainscreen. Now factor in weather delays, scheduling errors and other problems. Compare that to IMP construction. Metal construction materials arrive on site pre-punched, drilled, and ready for assembly, reducing erection time by approximately 33% compared to other methods. A trained crew of four can install as many as 5,000 square feet of IMPs in a single eight-hour shift. That puts you much closer to your inaugural harvest. 

Keeping Your Cool 

The energy and environmental costs of running an indoor grow facility can be considerable, but with metal and IMP construction’s exceptional insulating properties and thermal uniformity, you’ll offset those costs by significantly reducing heating and cooling costs.  

IMPs provide numerous other features, as well. Metal doesn’t support the growth of mold and is resistant to rust and decay, while creating a nearly airtight building envelope – keeping out pests, rodents, contaminants, and other intruders. Custom designed structures mean special drainage systems can be included, as well as recessed spaces in aisles for water faucets and easy-to-clean wall finishes – including specially formulated systems designed to stand up to routine, high-pressure washes. Metal construction is also perfectly suited to handle the increased collateral load cannabis cultivation requires. 

Maximize Your Footprint 

To enhance a grow operation’s profit margin, you need to make the most of every square foot of your building’s footprint. Robertson’s range of Primary Systems include Clear Span and Multi-Span framing options, allowing  for column-free interiors and large, unobstructed, clear span space to support crops, water storage, processing facilities, product storage, and more. You can also explore the option of adding mezzanines and lofts to double the capacity of your building footprint. Furthermore, as your business grows, metal buildings can scale alongside, ready for a boost in demand to be matched by a boost in size. 

Structures Tailored to Your Needs  

Robertson metal buildings may commonly be called “pre-engineered,” but the truth is all components are custom-designed and made to order. When you contact a Robertson representative near you, we’ll consult with you about topographic conditions and site selection as well as both interior and exterior design. Your building will be custom engineered to meet both facility requirements and local building codes. When you trust your project to Robertson, you’re not only reducing the number of on-site trades and potential scheduling snafus, you’re also trusting a single source of responsibility. That means you know precisely what to expect – and precisely who to call should you ever encounter a problem.  

Low Maintenance 

Thanks to the unmatched speed of metal construction, your building will be erected before you know it. Once it is, the news gets even better, because it will be virtually maintenance free. Metal walls and sloped metal roofing are self-cleaning, requiring nearly no upkeep, which further reduces your operating costs. And your materials are backed by Robertson’s warranties. 

Don’t let the others get ahead. Get in touch with a nearby Robertson representative today to start your cannabis cultivation project. The choice you make today could be the start of The Canadian cannabis industry’s next big name!