Local start-up thrives with help from wood innovation funding and marketing and production experts

VanAir Door manufacturing at Lynden Door's facility in Yarrow, B.C.

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.

To learn more about the support available to manufacturers, architects and engineers, visit Wood Innovates BC.