James Higgins and Vick Yau were fresh out of UBC when leading manufacturer Lynden Door took interest in their innovative vented door creation. But getting their company VanAir to that stage and beyond was quickly accelerated with the help of B.C. agencies that specialize in local wood projects.
Higgins and Yau were working from a rented woodshop at UBC when they had a chance encounter with Lynden Door. Their door was installed at a professor’s office, and after seeing the product, Lynden Door sent teams to go over testing and manufacturing with the young company.
Launching an innovative product
The VanAir vented door provides ventilation in interiors without sacrificing acoustic and visual privacy. The door allows air to flow from one side, through its core, and out the other side.
“We took what we built in the classroom and now it is at a point where it is a mass-produced product that is also warranted,” says Yau.
This innovative product is designed to push indoor environmental quality to the next level. Since its infancy, VanAir received support from associations that acquired funding from the Government of B.C.’s Wood First program. UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP) is instrumental in taking Higgins and Yau’s prototype through the product development stage with Lynden Door.
“There weren’t any roadblocks with the machinery, and we got funding as well,” says Yau. “CAWP gave us that springboard to test what designs would work and wouldn’t work. Those tools were very crucial to our success.”
UBC believes connecting entrepreneurs like Higgins and Yau to experts in their field at the infancy stage of a start-up is critical to success. “From prototype to a leading-edge door, CAWP has been an integral part of the design process at each step which makes it very rewarding to see VanAir’s continued growth,” says Jason Chiu, Managing Director, CAWP.
Promoting local innovation with wood
BC Wood is an active voice for the value-added industry and guides VanAir through its marketing efforts, locally and internationally. As a member, VanAir is offered continued trade show and networking opportunities with architects and designers.
“We pride ourselves on helping local wood product manufacturers grow faster by giving them the tools to access and expand in global markets they would not otherwise enter. VanAir is another local success story and were pleased to play a role,” says Brian Hawrysh, CEO, BC Wood.
That success has put them in many new exciting buildings, including the new Vancouver Public Library renovation expected to finish at the end of May.
“With a product like the ventilated door, it’s really about educating the market that something new exists,” says Yau. “It’s very hard to do this because this industry is so mature. To change that thinking process requires a lot of time, networking and money. BC Wood has helped us significantly.”
Picking up steam
Building on early success, VanAir, together with BC Wood, CAWP, and Lynden Door have created a marketing and business development strategy to help their product with long-term success.
“This first-to-market product is an efficient and cost-effective ventilation system that has created a new category in the built environment for interior doors,” says Al Jantzen, Business Development Manager, Lynden Door. “This design will be the first of many to be added to our portfolio with production expansion underway.”
Leading in B.C.’s value-added wood sector
Understanding the market, limitations and messaging is key for breaking into a market, and B.C. is primed to give technical and product development advice to like-minded companies.
Through its Wood First Program, the Province encourages the forest industry, researchers and design professionals to pay special attention to innovation in B.C.’s built environment.
The program encourages growing local and global markets while promoting climate-friendly construction and supporting B.C. forest-dependent communities, as seen through VanAir Design.
Four case studies and architectural drawings that provide solutions to common issues in mass-timber building design are now available.
Advancements in construction technology, modernized building codes, and a demand for sustainable design are making wood the right choice for a variety of residential and hotel projects. Wood products from B.C.’s sustainably managed forests are also helping to meet the growing demand for affordable housing; wood is well-suited for economical and timely construction — notably in hard to reach places, including downtown sites and remote locations.
More multi-family developers are discovering that the innovative use of wood and mass-timber construction doesn’t just save money, it can be an advantage that sets you apart in a sea of condos that begin to all look the same. Increasingly, both buyers and renters are placing importance on organic materials, sustainability, and warm, inviting interiors—all areas where wood construction excels.
The Shore is a multi-building residential development located a few blocks from the North Vancouver waterfront. The project includes both five and six-storey wood-frame buildings constructed over a single storey concrete parking garage. On completion of the fourth building in 2017, the complex will include 359 apartment units.
Leadership in structural and architectural wood use by local governments was recognized at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in Vancouver.
People spend the vast majority of their life inside buildings. For children and young adults, many of those hours are spent inside educational institutions. Having wood visible in learning spaces has been shown to lower stress and improve concentration and test performance. Along with health and wellness benefits, wood construction is cost effective and often faster than other methods. Learn more about the benefits of building with wood in schools.