Designer-turned-manufacturer Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir has learned the long, hard lessons of marketing a new product to an old industry.

Ingjaldsdóttir, principal of Santa Monica design firm Minarc, spent 10 years researching and designing a new type of building frame and wall panel system to replace the traditional wood frames used in the construction of most buildings. Her frames, made of recycled steel with recycled extruded polystyrene and gypsum board in between, are lighter, stronger and reduce materials waste in the process, she said.

The systems are considered 40 percent more efficient than typical newly built buildings, according to the Home Energy Rating System.

Ingjaldsdóttir took a steady approach to launching her business: She secured investors, built prototypes and put them up for sale. In 2013, she started her own manufacturing company, mnmMOD in Vernon, to make the panels after finding a local source for those recycled materials. She even worked with engineers for three years to get the panels approved by the cities of Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Culver City for use in building structure.

But after all that, it was hard to find buyers, Ingjaldsdóttir said. She and her husband, Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, both designers from Iceland, incorporated the panels into houses and structures they designed themselves – but they were basically the only users. Habitat for Humanity also used the panel systems in three homes built in and around Los Angeles by volunteers, she added, but that was it.

“Building materials haven’t changed in years and years, and that’s why it’s been taking us so long,” Ingjaldsdóttir said. “We are constantly trying to educate those who are trying to listen. But this is the future.”

But now, the panel systems are finally sparking interest from architects and designers, Ingjaldsdóttir said, thanks to California’s newer building codes. Specifically, California Code of Regulations’ Title 24, which toughened energy-efficiency requirements for residential and nonresidential buildings, and similar building codes asking for less wood, fewer chemical-emitting materials and reduced construction material waste, have made buying Ingjaldsdóttir’s panels a more compelling proposition.

“These (codes) are only going to get harder to meet,” Ingjaldsdóttir said. “This has definitely opened doors for us.”

Chinese Checkers

Signal Hill manufacturer of pollution reduction systems Ship & Shore Environmental Inc. is positioning itself as a solution to China’s increasing dirty air problems. As part of the effort, the company is partnering with a Chinese firm to get a foot in the door with local industrial producers and manufactures.

Ship & Shore has teamed up with Kcalin H&G, an auto parts manufacturer near Beijing, to build nonproprietary parts of Ship & Shore’s air pollution capture and control systems, said Chief Executive Anoosheh Oskouian. Proprietary parts of Ship & Shore’s systems will still be made in Signal Hill, she added.

The partnership supports the Singapore office that Ship & Shore opened earlier this year to take advantage of what it anticipates to be a burgeoning market for its technology as China gets ready to introduce new regulations limiting emissions releases, Oskouian said.

“There’s a lot of demand there; we are just scratching the surface,” she said. “Because of the growth there, companies have increased their manufacturing capabilities – but with nothing in place (previously) to control pollution, so it’s become worse and worse.”

Ship & Shore’s Chinese division hasn’t signed any contracts yet for its systems with local manufacturers, Oskouian said, but several are pending.

The companies’ first joint venture was an exhibit at the Conference of Jiangsu New Environmental Protection Technology, an expo on environmental management and pollution.

School Days

Local architects John Frane and Hadrian Predock closed the doors of their 15-year-old Venice architecture firm Predock Frane Architects in August.

Frane joined the Santa Monica office of HGA Architects and Engineers in Minneapolis in September as principal, and he also teaches at USC’s School of Architecture.

Predock has been serving as director of undergraduate programs at university’s School of Architecture since 2014. He had been a faculty member at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, according to USC.

Frane was not available for comment but said in a statement at the time of the firm’s closing that the new environment will give him a chance to explore different and innovative ideas and concepts.

Staff reporter Carol Lawrence can be reached at clawrence@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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