Getting a complex renovation project from design to operation in one year is no simple task. But that’s what IMEG Corp.'s design and construction team was asked to accomplish for MedPharm, one of Iowa’s first medical marijuana manufacturing facilities. 

IMEG provided mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); fire protection; and technology/security design for the facility. The firm’s work with the project architects began as soon as MedPharm was granted a license by the state of Iowa in late November 2017, allowing them to manufacture three types of medical marijuana products to be sold at the state’s five licensed dispensaries. The license also required that the company have the products ready to dispense by Dec. 1, 2018 — giving the firm 12 months to complete the project. 

Besides IMEG’s technical abilities, its local presence and experience and familiarity with other trades on-site and the owner served as two critical differentiators that helped the team meet the state-mandated deadline. The same IMEG team had recently worked on the design for the new world headquarters of Des Moines-based Kemin Industries, MedPharm’s parent company. Kemin knew IMEG understood the company’s procedures and thought processes and could get up to speed quickly on a new project. The team’s local presence offered experience working with the city of Des Moines’ building department and made it easy for those on-site to meet with department officials prior to the receipt of the license. This ensured the firm understood the permitting and inspection processes as well as the code requirements that would come into play with the existing building — a 1960s-era freight distribution warehouse near the Kemin campus. The firm’s proximity also granted the team the ability to efficiently investigate the existing conditions of the building. 

At the time of design, medical marijuana processing was a new type of project for the team, so Kemin arranged for engineers to visit a similar facility, MedPharm Colorado, in Denver. Team members toured that facility and met with its personnel to gain a better understanding of the highly secure, strictly controlled scientific process. 


Early Design and Planning 

IMEG’s proactive investigations saved the team valuable time and allowed its engineers to hit the ground running once the project was given the green light by the state. Engineers spent the first month meeting with the owner, user groups, and contractors to work through the tight project budget and schedule and conduct master planning-type exercises to determine not only what needed to be operational on day one but also how to provide flexibility for future growth and expansion. IMEG then conducted several rounds of conceptual design, aided by an architectural firm with expertise on the unique process equipment requirements. Using rendering software, engineers turned their Revit model into a 3D virtual walkthrough to help the owner see, understand, and approve the final design. 

The project delivery was a highly collaborative effort between the design team, general contractor, fire protection and security systems subcontractors, and mechanical and electrical contractors. The trade contractors also provided prefabricated assemblies, which were critical in meeting the timeline. IMEG peer reviewed each other’s work throughout the project and worked closely with the vendors to determine the utility requirements of all equipment. 

To allow MedPharm the time it needed to grow, harvest, process, and package its first batch of product by the state’s deadline, design and construction were phased with the most critical and time-sensitive spaces brought online first.