Cannabis facilities in need of innovative thinking

As cannabis production facilities are on the verge of proliferating across the country, efficiency—and, by extension, sustainability—is going to be a pressing issue.

According to Sony Rai, the architecture lead at SvN—which is building a 280,000 square foot cannabis production facility, research and development centre, as well as Cronos Group’s corporate head office, just outside Barrie—now is the time to look into building these facilities with minimal footprint.

“As architects, we look at how we can satisfy the building use on a smaller footprint, so we should start looking at a sustainable approach, in terms of energy use,” he said. “But also, because these indoor facilities don’t need access to natural light and are grown in artificial environments, we should look at ways they can be built underground or on multiple storeys.”

Uniquely, cannabis facilities are zoned for both industrial and agricultural. However, this versatility has drawbacks.

“One of the big challenges in agricultural areas is electricity, and getting access to that electricity,” said Rai. “The facility we’re developing in Stayner uses 20 times more electricity than Stayner itself. Getting access to this kind of energy out in rural areas is very challenging. You’re also not close to the distribution as well, so you have to move product further afield. Whereas in and around suburban municipalities, you have access to highways and electrical infrastructure, but there the cost of land is a challenge.”

But wthe increase in large-scale distribution centres over the last decade, an opportunity has doubtless presented itself.

“It’s a great time to look at our relationship to boxes,” said Rai. “Now with the growth of Amazon fulfillment centres, data centres, the cannabis industry and other large-scale distribution centres, it’s an opportunity to look at zoning. Clients will place large boxes on a single storey and have access to cheap land. It’s a great time to look for rezoning to see how we can develop these facilities on multiple storeys and make them more mixed-use.”

Managing the energy complications efficiently—and quickly—is imperative, though. According to Sunny Sharma, president and co-owner of Century 21 Leading Edge VIP Realty Inc., the cost of operating cannabis facilities close to cities is becoming more prohibitive by the day.

“They’re raising the price of industrial,” he said. “With this new use of being able to grow inside versus outside, it’d be horrendous to grow it in the cities. The price per square foot for the land is much cheaper outside of the city.”

 


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