Controlled environment agriculture climates are complex in that they pose unique challenges for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) designers not only in application, but also in the intricacies of HVACD coordination. Grow room climate systems impact nearly every other aspect of the facility. That is why it is so important to work with an engineer that can effectively coordinate with other design and construction teams throughout every phase of the buildout process. Thus, it is imperative that your engineer is prepared to offer a level of HVACD coordination sufficient for commercial cannabis cultivation.

Pre-design HVACD coordination
Before facility design even begins, the designer of your HVACD systems should have extensive communication with the cultivation, ownership and operations teams. This will help the design team form a cohesive understanding of the goals and priorities of each segment of the business. HVACD systems impact every layer of the business, inclusive of initial budgets, operating costs and revenues. The design team should understand the owner’s goals around initial and ongoing costs. They should understand the cultivator’s expectations for parameters, system precision, biosecurity, and irrigation strategies. HVACD system designers should also consider the operation team’s priorities and capabilities around system complexity and ongoing maintenance requirements throughout the HVACD coordination process.

The needs of each of member of the team should be well understood and carefully considered before deciding upon a climate system design approach. Remember to take into consideration controls strategies and operational insights, data collection requirements, redundancy and emergency operation needs, and odor control strategies. Each of these elements are directly impacted by the decisions around the MEP design. Extensive coordination at the pre-design level ensures that none of your team members are surprised by cost or system capabilities after the design is complete. Since making changes later in the process can be both costly and time consuming, it is crucial for MEP engineers to include HVACD coordination in their scope of work.

Design coordination
Mechanical HVACD engineers must coordinate closely with every design discipline involved in facility design, starting with the architect and including (but not limited to) structural, electrical, plumbing and civil engineers. Surna is able to manage HVACD design and implementation inclusive of controls and commissioning for clients. If you’re not working with a partner who can assist with every step of the process, your mechanical design team will also need to coordinate with your controls provider to ensure the full scope of controls requirements are met.

Here are a few common examples of design aspects to consider as part of HVACD coordination:

  • Architectural plans will need to be refined as mechanical plans are developed and associated space utilization requirements are communicated.
  • The structural engineer will need to consider ceiling or roof mounted HVACD equipment.
  • HVACD systems will make up a significant portion of the connected electrical load, and thus electrical engineers will need a full understanding of the electrical requirements associated with the mechanical system.
  • Plumbing designers will need to be involved with any gas needs as well as condensate drainage or water supply requirements associated with the HVACD system.
  • Civil engineers are often required to assist with design areas related to public works, such as excessive drainage requirements associated with dehumidification and reverse osmosis waste when condensate is not being recycled.

Failure to properly coordinate the various elements of the grow facility at the design level will most likely result in expensive engineering change orders and costly design delays. If improperly coordinated designs make it all the way to construction, the impact can be devastating.

MEP design implementation & construction coordination
Once the design is complete and construction begins, the various trades working in the facility will need to ensure they understand each piece of the mechanical system and how they’re installed. It can be enormously helpful if the mechanical engineering contract includes construction administration. This ensures the construction team has the tools they need to appropriately plan for access and sequencing of trades.

Additionally, start up and commissioning of HVACD systems often involves a number of teams. This includes the designers of the system, equipment manufacturers, and mechanical, electrical, and controls professionals who  certify that everything is correctly started and dialed in. It’s extremely important that HVACD system start up is well-coordinated  for a smoother construction process. Your MEP designer should do their part to coordinate the syncing of construction activities in order to avoid delays or confusion.

Choose your partners carefully
Ensuring that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, that there are no scope gaps or overlaps, and that work doesn’t have to be ripped out and redone due to failure to coordinate, is probably the single most important step an owner can take in the pursuit of their facility being completed as planned. This starts with choosing experienced partners like Surna, who are well versed in the nuances of cultivation facilities and can support the complete needs of your project, from predesign collaboration, to start-up and commissioning, and beyond.

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