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Why Metal Buildings are the Best Choice for Cannabis Facilities

May 10, 2022

Norsteel Steel Cannabis Buildings

The cannabis industry in North America has been experiencing a massive boom over the last few years. Not only is cannabis legalization being adopted in more and more U.S. states each year, but within the jurisdictions where it is legal already – including at the federal level in Canada – the industry is growing at a rapid pace.

Globally, the cannabis industry will account for $35 billion worth of sales in 2022 and is projected to grow to more than $61 billion by 2026. In Canada alone, the industry achieved sales of $3.8 billion in 2021, is projected to grow to $4.7 billion this year, and reach $6.3 billion by 2026. Clearly this industry is in a critical period of growth, and numerous cannabis cultivators, distributors, and retailers need infrastructure that will allow them to accommodate this expanding market.

Steel buildings are the ideal solution for those in the cannabis industry. For everything from medical marijuana and recreational marijuana grow-ops to cannabis storage and distribution centres, steel buildings offer a number of benefits over other building types. Let’s examine some of the key ways that metal buildings are different from other potential buildings like greenhouses, traditional masonry, or wood buildings.

5 Reasons Metal Buildings are Ideal for Cannabis

There are innumerable reasons why steel buildings are an ideal choice for pretty much any customer and any use-case, but with the cannabis industry in particular there exist some unique benefits. The cultivation of cannabis is very scientific and carries with it some very specific challenges. Let’s examine some of the strengths that steel buildings have, which directly address some of these challenges.

Easy Temperature Control

Cannabis Building with Lights Installed

Our previous blog post examined the energy efficient nature of steel as a building material, and how this translates to savings month-after-month for customers who use steel buildings. These financial savings are just as true for the cannabis industry, but more importantly by insulating from the cold in the winter and heat in the summer, steel buildings can help cannabis growers to maintain a consistent temperature and internal growing environment.

Cannabis is a very particular plant. It originates from Central and South Asia, and particularly the Indian subcontinent. From a climate perspective, this area of the world has little resemblance to Ontario, Canada (for example). Cannabis is grown most effectively while in the 20 to 30 degrees Celsius range (approximately) and in higher levers of humidity. These sorts of conditions might manifest themselves a couple times a year in your local area, but chances are you’ll have a hard time maintaining these conditions year-round.

Thanks to the insular qualities of steel, it makes it very easy to regulate the internal temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors that influence the growth and health of the plants. It’s also very easy to add additional insulation, fans, heaters, lighting equipment, water distributors, etc., to your steel building because of the strength and stability of the structure itself. So, no matter what the external conditions of the environment are, you should always be able to achieve the ideal internal growing conditions for cannabis with a steel building.

For more details on the energy efficiency and insular qualities of steel as a construction material, click here to read our last blog post on the subject.

Security and Strength

Cannabis grow-ops require security, and their managers want to feel assured that the plants inside will remain safe throughout the operation of the facility. Thankfully, steel is an incredibly strong and resilient material that provides protection from the elements, as well as potential intruders, thieves, etc.

When grown on a large professional scale, cannabis grow-op facilities can house potentially millions of dollars worth of product at any given time. The last thing you want is for a particularly bad spat of weather to come through and cause damage to your building, or even for the gradual wear-and-tear of precipitation and environmental conditions to erode the quality of your structure. Steel provides ample protection from the elements. Beginning with the design process, every steel building from Norsteel is designed to meet the local snow and precipitation loads of your jurisdiction. In effect, the structure is custom designed to meet the demanding requirements of your municipality.

In addition to protection from the elements, steel also lends itself well to protection from bad actors. Steel is an incredibly tough and durable material, making it difficult to puncture or breach in comparison to something like a wood building, or a transparent glass or plastic greenhouse. Also, all entryways to steel buildings can be equipped with advanced security measures like cameras, door access panels, etc., which add an even higher level of personnel security. Finally, sometimes anonymity can be important to an operation that houses such a significant amount of valuable product on-site. Steel buildings have the option to be customized for aesthetic reasons, but they can also be highly anonymous and plain looking if so desired. It would be difficult to tell from the exterior alone, what separates your marijuana grow-op facility from any other steel warehouse or industrial building.

Between the strength of the materials, the structural integrity of the building, and the optional security add-ons or design elements, steel is far and away the best choice for those in the cannabis industry concerned about safety and security for their business.

Large Clear Spans

It goes without saying that to grow cannabis requires a lot of space. Cannabis is, at the end of the day, a crop, and to grow a crop indoors you require a large area – not to mention additional space for equipment required to maintain the plants. Steel buildings are perfect for this because they offer such large clear span interior spaces.

Unlike buildings made primarily from wood or masonry, steel buildings do not require many – if any – interior support columns. Steel buildings are clear-span by design, as the steel beams that span the top of your structure provide ample support for the building without additional interior support columns. This is not the case for any other type of building – you could not design a large wooden building without having interior columns that would take up some of your floor space. This grants you the ability to maximize your cannabis growing operations inside of the building.

Keep in mind, you still have the option to add walls, dividers, etc., to section off particular areas of the building. Typically, when we design a grow-op for one of our customers, we design a building within a building. Using insulated metal panels, we create an environment where crops can be separated into distinct growing areas – sealed spaces that contain individual batches of product. This allows for strict monitoring of environmental conditions and prevents disease and fungus, limiting destructive strains from spreading to the entire facility. The point here is that with wood or masonry you are limited in how you can design the interior space, whereas with steel you have complete design and creative freedom to design the interior however you see fit.

Time and Cost Effective

Cannabis Building Interior When it comes down to it, many customers will focus on the price of a new building above anything else. The good news is that steel is an incredibly affordable material, particularly in the current era of heavily impacted global supply chains.

For comparison’s sake, let’s examine the price of steel as it compares to lumber. The effects of the pandemic are still being felt across global supply chains, which is causing high amounts of price fluctuation and volatility. At its peak, steel pricing increased 77% during the worst days of the pandemic. However, lumber increased 266% over the same period of time! Steel is such a widely used construction material (particularly for large-scale projects like infrastructure, skyscrapers, large industrial developments, etc.), that the production of this material was able to get back online fairly quickly following the immediate disruptions in March 2020. As a result, steel is far more affordable pound-for-pound than lumber is today. When you add on all the added benefits of steel – insular qualities, strength and stability, etc. – it becomes the clear choice from a cost perspective. For more information on the rising cost of lumber and the shrinking price of steel, read our blog article here.

It also takes far less time to construct a steel building than it does a wooden structure. Pre-fabricated steel buildings have all of their components pre-measured and cut ahead of time. When building components arrive on a job site – all in one package, mind you – the individual pieces of that structure are ready to be assembled right away. With a wooden structure, the pieces of that building must be measured and cut on-site, and often arrive in batches rather than as a single delivery. This aspect of steel building construction means your building, once it arrives, can be constructed in as little as a weekend (depending on the size of your structure, of course). For a cannabis grow-op facility, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have a steel structured erected and ready to go within a week or two following its arrival at the installation site. In comparison to wooden structures, there’s simply no contest in this regard. To learn more about how quickly steel buildings can be erected, click here to read our article on the subject.

Ease of Expansion

One thing to keep in mind with any new industrial or warehousing-related building construction is how easy the expansion of that structure might be one day. As we mentioned at the start of this article, the cannabis industry is experiencing a massive growth cycle at the moment. The steel building you construct today to house your cannabis grow-op facility, might not be large enough to house your operations within a year or two at the current rate the industry is growing. Thankfully, steel buildings can be easily expanded at a later date.

When a steel building is in need of expansion, it’s just a matter of “how much” rather than “can it be done.” The Endwall of your building can simply be unbolted and removed, additional clear-span rigid frames can be bolted in place, and the removed Endwall frame can be re-used in the new location at the end of the expansion. Matching roof and wall panels are then added to complete your building expansion. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

This ability to be constantly expanded with ease, gives you the added flexibility and readiness to scale your operations at any point in time. This cannot be accomplished with other building materials. Given the pace at which the cannabis industry is growing – with global sales projected to double within just a few years – you can’t afford the time or effort of an entirely new building construction in just one or two years. With steel, you can right-size your operation today, and right-size it again next year, and the year after, and the year after, etc., with ease.

The Cannabis Boom!

Cannabis legalization is taking North America by storm, and the cannabis industry stands to benefit greatly over the next year or two as sales increase exponentially! Steel buildings are the perfect choice for the budding (pun intended) cannabis entrepreneur, as well as the established business. If you’re looking to get started or expand your cannabis operations, one of our steel building experts can work with you to design the building that meets your needs exactly.

If you have any questions about how your cannabis business can benefit from a steel building construction, click here and fill out the contact form or give us a call at 1.866.971.7575 to speak with a professional building consultant today. We hope to hear from you!

About the author 

Michelle Keenan

Michelle is one of two owner-operators of Norsteel Buildings, alongside her husband Sean. Michelle has more than two decades of experience in steel building design and construction, and has worked with thousands of customers over the years to make their building dreams come true. Under Michelle's leadership, Norsteel has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Builders in North America 5 years in a row.

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