by members of NCIA’s Facilities Design Committee
Jacques Santucci, Brian Anderson, David Vaillancourt, and David Dixon
Continuing our five-part series on the behind-the-scenes workings of the legal cannabis industry. This series focuses on all of the inner dealings and industry advice from established professionals to craft this unlimited How-to-Guide to assist you in setting up your own facility. These articles cover cultivation, extraction, infused products, and retail facilities as well as support activities. In general, remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations and contact a licensed contractor and industry expert.
Part Two, Extraction: Top Things to Consider When Planning Your Cannabis Extraction Operation
The extraction environment is akin to an industrial process and should be approached away from a safety and chemical handling standpoint. Here are some general considerations as you begin to plan your extraction operation that we often see assumed or overlooked resulting in major unanticipated barriers that significantly impact decision costs and timelines. Always remember to be compliant with all local rules and regulations.
Interior Building Materials
The walls and floors should be designed to be easily cleanable. In areas with solvent use, should have floors and walls made with the material, and ultimately the method for effective and ease of cleaning such FRP (Fiberglas Reinforced Panels).
There are many established standards from organizations like the NFPA and ICC-IFC which are commonly cited and required by Fire Marshalls with appropriate fire engineering controls, room interlocks, etc. Knowing which classifications are required based on the room type has a major impact on facility specifications (e.g. C1D1, C1D2, etc.) and the ultimate design. This requires knowing which solvents you will be using (and equally important, solvents you will not be using) as well as identifying all of the activities you will be doing in your extraction/processing facility (winterization, purification, bulk or final product packaging, and more) and whether the rooms will be wet and dry (how will you be cleaning these rooms?). How you answer those questions will help you and your team select the appropriate room materials and overall design.
Electrical Power Ideal Recommendations
Evaluate your utility power infrastructure, including street transformers and available power to your site when designing your facility. The power demand for a cannabis facility is significant and grid limitations can destroy or significantly delay the ability for a business to operate.
Losing power due to weather or events outside of your control are another major risk. When considering alternative power generation, consider a generator with auto-transfer switching and the appropriate fuel type, depending on location and local weather. Contact a local licensed professional. A generator can be an invaluable insurance policy as even a short duration power outage can destroy an entire crop and any products that must be maintained at critical temperatures.
Equipment Rooms and Maintenance Rooms
Appropriate space for equipment and dedicated rooms for maintenance is commonly needed. These all come with different combustion air requirements, venting requirements, air exchange rates, vacuum lines, and more. You may consider a room for spare parts and tools.
Appropriate Storage Area: Biomass, Volatiles, Raw Ingredients, and More
Separation of raw materials with appropriate and dedicated storage areas is needed for the various types of raw ingredients and materials utilized within a cannabis facility. Volatile solvents require extremely specific storage requirements, which will become part of your Chemical Hygiene Plan once you are operational. Refer to your local Fire Marshall for code considerations and from code organizations like the ICC and NFPA.
Cleaning and sanitation agents should be segregated from materials that are utilized in final product formulations (e.i food ingredients, oils, etc.) and raw materials ahead of the design is critical to ensure appropriate storage requirements are met whether indoor or outdoor. Biomass storage can vary based on whether wet or dry and often require controlled temperature and humidity. Finally, do not forget the dedicated space needed for finished good inventory.
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) Safety
Do you know that shock you get when you are in your car in the winter or flipping on a light switch? Innocent in everyday life, but potentially lethal in an environment such as extraction rooms where highly flammable solvents could be present. Consider rated and non-rated clothing and other personal protection measures.
Food Grade Oil Considerations and Inspections
Extracted oils that will be used downstream in edibles and beverages are akin to ingredients that require Food Safety endorsements such as cGMP.
Before selecting equipment for use, evaluation criteria should be established based on your business needs and compliance. Some authorities having jurisdiction require extraction equipment to come with stamps, certifications, or endorsements from organizations such as ASME, UL, and NFPA as relevant to ensure equipment safety and fit for use.
Room Environmental Controls
Grinding rooms often need separate dedicated ventilation and filtration to be checked against grinding method/equipment and concentration of particulate (typically measured in parts per million (ppm) in the air. Dust collection systems for grinding equipment are effective ways to keep dust levels at manageable levels, reducing the need for time consuming cleaning procedures. Extraction and final product rooms may require additional ventilation considerations and monitoring sensors depending on the extraction method or final product type. Example: Solvents will require sensors and air exchanges located near the ground level since most solvent fumes tend to be heavier than air.
Designing your facility involves HVACD (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Dehumidification) management that considers airflow controls areas, airflow, and fire protection within control areas. Rooms may require positive and negative pressures with calibrated pressure indicators. You should aim at having a leveled constant environment.
Safety and Injury Handling
Facilities need to have sufficient accessible First Aid and Burn Kits on site. Safety and Emergency Showers are often determined by code and the type of extraction solvent in use at the locations. Eye wash stations may also be required.
Spill and Solvent Safety
In areas where solvents are or may be used, you will need to have barrier/spill kits specific to the solvents and extraction materials on hand. This barrier can be built in or hand delivered per emergency. Solvent storage locations, depending on the type of solvent and hazardous rating.
Having one or two dedicated people to run point on spills can be part of a comprehensive spill procedure that would include evacuation of the area, assessment of the spill and of the clean up technique, disposal method, etc. There are many materials that are not compatible or properties that make them volatile under certain circumstances so having dedicated people to evaluate the situation will save you time, money, and any possible mishaps.
Indoor and outdoor solvent storage are dictated by NFPA, ICC-IFC, and local regulations. Storage types and limits are essential to check before buying or building a facility. Fire professionals base these limits on several factors of flammability including class and volatility. You may also need to adhere to SARA Type III reporting depending on the solvent and storage amounts. Do not forget about solvent tank types, whether they need to be mounted or chained to walls, security access controls, and SDS requirements.
C1D1, C1D2 is needed for solvent use. The actual type of solvents (e.g. CO2, Ethanol, etc.), and volume of solvent will dictate the different requirements for enclosures. This section pertains to areas in which the solvent would be transferred, mixed, extracted, recovered, etc. The type of enclosure is dependent on the type and class of solvent. Most enclosures will have volume limits, containment, vapor detector, electrical and ventilation requirements.
Ensure wall switch and fast ventilation, automated ventilation when sensors are activated during spill of contaminate.Sensors to be located where appropriate for the substance in use. Coordinated with the fire marshall to meet local requirements through design with architect and mechanical teams.
Employee Access Control
Limiting door access, proper security labeling, and key sets for employees need to be part of your overall security plan. LThe idea is to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the extraction space compliant with the local regulatory body.
Equipment Regulatory Listing
There are requirements such as UL certifications/marks which are dependent on the actual device and intended use. Always contact your local code enforcement office and a licensed contractor.
Check out these related articles for more top things to consider when planning: