CFN Exclusive Q&A Interview with Laura Breit of Root Engineers
December 7th, 2018
Deciding to enter the legal cannabis space as a producer or extractor is a lot more complicated than simple horticulture. The highly complex facilities housing these operations must be efficient, compliant, and safe. Leading the way in the design and build out of such spaces is Root Engineers, a Bend, Oregon-based firm offering a variety of engineering, design, and consulting services for cannabis growers, architects, contractors, and investors. The company boasts decades of combined experience in electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and process engineering while at the same time remaining at the cutting edge of oft-changing cannabis regulations.
CFN Media spoke with Laura Breit of Root Engineers at the recent MJBizCon in Las Vegas to learn more about the firm’s unique position in the cannabis industry as it relates both to agriculture and engineering as well as their expansive offerings for cultivators and processors.
CFN: What is the history of Root Engineers?
Laura Breit: ColeBreit Engineering, our parent company, was founded in 2013. In 2014, we started getting requests to provide mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering services for facilities specific to cannabis. We had quite a few clients just asking for those services. Since then, we’ve done over 80 cultivation and extraction facilities. In total we’ve got over 100 years of professional engineering expertise on our team. Through that we’ve mostly focused on a commercial and industrial facilities, and the cannabis space fits well into that as well.
I think one of the really unique things about Root is that even though we’re a new brand, we’re based in Oregon where cannabis was voted to be legalized in 2014, and got into this space just before it became legal, so we have quite a bit of experience in an industry that’s otherwise in its infancy in terms of engineering.
CFN: What specific types of services do you offer to different verticals across the space?
LB: We’ll provide design services for the heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems. Which could be anything from chillers, boilers, or packaged HVAC systems and definitely more simple systems in there as well. We also provide electrical engineering services, which could be the lighting or power systems. On the extraction side, we’ll provide the design for the safety equipment. There’s strobes that are required for evacuation, exhaust systems, things like that for just overall safety of the facility.
Generally,, we’re talking about mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. On the mechanical side that would be anything related to the overall heating and cooling of the space. Specific, to make sure that we’re meeting our owner’s project requirements in terms of the correct temperature set point, humidity set point, and overall code compliance of the facility.
On the electrical side, we’re talking about power system design, backup power, and lighting design as well as making sure that we’re interfacing correctly with the equipment that the cultivator needs specific to their process. And to be sure that the electrical service is sized properly for the facility.
On the plumbing side, it could be anything from the basic waste and water systems for the facility to more specific systems, such as the reverse osmosis systems.
We’re not specific to any brand as our deliverable is essentially the design drawings that go out to bid. We’re not brand loyal, so to speak. We have different pieces of equipment that we will use depending on what fits that facility based on budget, or how tight they want their control points to be.
CFN: What sets you apart from potential competitors in this space?
LB: Our approach to engineering is focused on providing the very best recommendations for the unique operation of our clients. A lot of the other companies that you will see in this space, they’re looking to sell their equipment first, and the design second. We really concentrate on a very custom design. Because it’s the design that should drive what the equipment selection is. We really want to start at the root of the problem, pun intended, definitely, and build the right system from there.
I think that you should know that professional engineering is something that’s incredibly important to this industry. It’s oftentimes overlooked in the beginning, and people get caught on the backend needing a professional engineer to get through permitting. Or because their system isn’t quite operating the way that they thought it was going to.
So the sooner you get us on board, one, the more efficient your process is going to be. Both, in terms of getting it built efficiently, as well as the efficient operation. But also, it’s probably going to save you money in the end, because we went through the process the correct way.
CFN: What are you looking forward to as a company in 2019?
LB: What we’re calling the Cannabis 2.0 is kicking off. I think you can expect us to be a much more recognizable brand. I think you can expect us to be involved in the design of larger facilities. We have a lot of facilities we designed a few years ago that started out with simple systems, because first cost was everything, and now they’re going to be looking to upgrade and go to something that’s a little more efficient, and better thought out. So I think you can see us getting involved in a lot of those. Certainly, we will be looking at energy use and the costs to operate certain systems, and just being the thought leaders in this space. Above all else, doing what’s best for our clients and the industry.
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