Chapter 2.1
The Construction Industry


Construction: The erection, installation, extension or repair of a physical structure.

Constructor: A person who contracts with an owner or the owner’s authorized agent to undertake a project; includes an owner who contracts with more than one person for the work on a project, or who undertakes the work on a project or part thereof. (National Building Code, 2015)

Journeyman: Skilled tradesperson qualified to work in a specific field.

Apprentice: Person learning a skill or trade from an experienced and qualified journeyman.


The architect works within a complex network of regulated professionals, technical experts, skilled constructors and trades, product manufacturers and suppliers, and regulatory authorities. Together, these disparate groups and individuals form the supply chain of the design-construction industry. A thorough knowledge of the organization of this industry, and the roles and responsibilities of each player, is critical in understanding how a design becomes a building.


According to Statistics Canada, the construction sector employed 1.437 million people in Canada in 2018, and produced $141 billion in goods and services that year. Add to this the value of residential construction, including multiple housing units, and the construction sector represents approximately 7% of Canada’s gross domestic product.

The construction industry is divided into two sub-sectors, building construction and heavy civil works construction. Each accounts for approximately half of the total construction industry. These sub-sectors often respond to different market forces, use different construction techniques and materials, and employ different labour forces.

The construction of buildings sub-sector includes both residential and non-residential buildings. The heavy and civil engineering construction sub-sector covers all non-building construction projects, including roads, sewer and water, bridges, dams, railways, ports, airports, pipelines, and oil and gas facilities. The architect is predominantly focused on the building sub-sector of the industry.

Participants in the Construction Industry

The supply chain of the building sub-sector is composed of many loosely coordinated components, most of which fall into six major groups:

  • Owners: the public- and private-sector buyers of design services and construction;
  • Designers: professionals such as architects and engineers, and others, including interior designers, planners, and various consultants and technical personnel, responsible for the design documentation and overseeing of construction;
  • Constructors: contractors, subcontractors and trade contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, and insurance and bonding companies that support the construction industry;
  • Authorities having jurisdiction: typically, officials at the regional and municipal levels who have the authority to administer federal, provincial/territorial, and local legislation, regulations, codes and bylaws;
  • Advisory and advocacy organizations: numerous organizations exist for the purpose of supporting the design-construction industry, providing standards, literature, and business support;
  • Other design-construction industry players: lending institutions such as mortgage and finance companies, real estate services, trade associations, researchers, analysts, project management service providers, and other miscellaneous official and service agencies.


Owners usually possess the legal title, lease, or licence to the land, site or building for which design and construction projects are intended. In most cases the owner is the “client” who retains the architect to provide professional services for the design project. Owners are distinguished from clients, as the client of a design project may or may not possess the title and lease of the property. For example, in some jurisdictions it is permissible for an architect to enter into a contract to provide design services with an owner’s agent, such as a project management service provider.

See also Chapter 2.2 – The Client.


Many kinds of designers are involved in the construction industry. However, because of the unique training that architects receive, they often act as prime consultant for most design work related to the construction, alteration or enlargement of the built environment greater than a building code-specified building or certain floor area. Other buildings (such as industrial plants and warehouses), as well as other engineering construction (such as bridges), may or may not involve the architect as a part of the design team, but when involved, they are not usually acting in the role of prime (or coordinating) consultant.

A host of specialist professionals and paraprofessionals assist architects in this role. See Chapter 2.3 – Consultants for the roles of other consultants and designers in the construction industry.


General Contractor, Design-Builder, or Construction Manager

Construction is undertaken by a work force comprised of people and companies with a wide range of expertise and resources. On a large or complex project there can be hundreds of workers from dozens of companies, both large and small, contributing to the effort with their capabilities and skills. The work of each of these different companies and trade groups must be coordinated in order to ensure construction operations proceed in an orderly fashion while at the same time addressing the inevitable need for rapid progress and high-quality workmanship. Coordinating the endeavour is the constructor. The role of the constructor may be filled by a general contractor, a design-builder, or the owner themselves with the support of a construction manager, depending on the method of design-construction program delivery. The type of delivery is defined by the network of contractual relationships between the many parties, including the owner, designers, constructor, and trades.

See Chapter 4.1 – Types of Design-Construction Program Delivery for a detailed description of the types of program delivery.

The following is a brief description of the different types of companies that may fill the role of the constructor.

A general contractor undertakes responsibility for the successful completion of the construction project. They assume the financial liability for the construction project by providing the owner with a price for the work. That price is based on an assessment of the design created by the design team hired by the owner. The general contractor hires the trade contractors and coordinates the work of construction.

A design-builder may also fill the role of constructor. The design-builder undertakes responsibility for the successful completion of the construction project as well as assuming responsibility for the design project. The design-builder hires the design team and oversees the design to ensure that the design meets the owner’s requirements and can be executed within the fixed price that the design-builder has provided to the owner. Like the general contractor, the design-builder also hires the trade contractors.

A construction manager works in a consultative capacity with the owner and is often hired at or near the beginning of the design project. The construction manager supports the design team during the design by providing constructability and financial information. The construction manager coordinates the hiring of the trade contractors on behalf of the owner but is not a party to these contracts themselves. The trade contractors are in a direct contract with the owner. In this arrangement, it is the owner themselves who acts as the constructor with the support of the construction manager. It is common for the role of construction manager to convert to that of a general contractor once the cost of construction becomes firm and the project’s financial liability can be transferred.

A construction company may provide general contractor, design-builder, or construction management services, depending on the owner’s needs and desire to manage risk.

Trade Contractors

Trade contractors usually operate as subcontractors to a general contractor or design-builder, or as a contractor hired directly by the owner in the case of construction management. Trade contractors employ skilled labour and trades to build projects using custom-manufactured and/or standard products and components, supplied either directly from the manufacturer or through a system of suppliers, distributors and wholesalers.

Labour force and hiring practices in the construction industry are driven by market fluctuations. Most workers are hired on a project-by-project basis, often through union or non-union hiring halls. Often, only key personnel are employed on salary over the long term. Consequently, firms quickly expand and contract their operations (and enter and exit the industry) in a relatively flexible manner in response to changing business conditions.

Skilled tradespeople include carpenters, masons, plasterers, plumbers, steel workers, electricians, and many other classes of skilled workers.

Workers acquire their skills through a combination of education and apprenticeship, becoming journeymen when they achieve the required level of competence. Community colleges/cégeps (collège(s) d’enseignement général et professionnel) and vocational schools, in consultation with trade unions and other standards-setting organizations, provide the necessary training. Either following or concurrent with their formal education, students/apprentices work alongside experienced journeymen (both men and women), learning skills needed to practise their chosen trade. Certain skilled workers, such as plumbers, electricians, and elevator mechanics, must be licensed.

Manufacturers and Suppliers

In many instances, materials and products selected for construction are manufactured to established codes and standards. Product standards used in the construction industry are established by various standards-writing bodies, composed of a combination of:

  • users/owners;
  • manufacturers;
  • technical and trade specialists;
  • building industry manufacturers and suppliers;
  • authorities having jurisdiction;
  • building design professionals;
  • testing agencies.

The architect selects materials and products meeting these requirements for incorporation into the work. Materials and products may be “off the shelf” or custom manufactured for each project.

Manufacturers and suppliers can be excellent sources of technical assistance for the architect. Typically, manufacturers provide the architect with technical information as well as product samples and specifications to review and include in the office library.

Manufacturers and suppliers frequently participate in construction industry trade shows which:

  • showcase new and existing products and building components;
  • provide the latest technical information;
  • facilitate networking opportunities;
  • provide continuing education events.

See also Chapter 2.5 – Standards Organizations, Certification and Testing Agencies, and Trade Associations.

Bonding and Insurance Companies

Forming an important part of the construction industry are the companies that:

  • provide bonds, known as sureties, to contractors;
  • provide professional liability insurance to design professionals.

For more information on construction insurance, refer to CCDC 21 2016, A Guide to Construction Insurance.

For more information on bonds and sureties, refer to CCDC 22 2002, A Guide to Construction Surety Bonds.

Advisory and Advocacy Organizations

Canadian Construction Association (CCA)

Founded in 1918, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) is a national body with a membership of more than 20,000 individuals and companies. The CCA represents the wide-ranging interests of the construction industry throughout Canada, from construction standards and policies to procurement to sustainable development and innovations in construction technology.

The CCA is governed by an executive committee and a board of directors comprised of volunteer members. The members, who are selected from a variety of constituent groups with different construction-related interests, are elected at the annual general meeting.

Based in Ottawa, the CCA represents the industry’s national interests when lobbying the federal government.

For further information, contact:

Canadian Construction Association
1900–275 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5H9
Tel: (613) 236-9455
Fax: (613) 236-9526

Provincial/Territorial and Local Construction Associations

Most urban communities throughout Canada have construction associations.

Membership in these associations often includes a fully integrated affiliate membership in the Canadian Construction Association. In this case, members enjoy all the benefits and privileges of membership in the national association as well as those offered by the local associations.

Local construction associations have the following aims and objectives:

  • representation at local, provincial/territorial, and (through the CCA) federal levels of government;
  • the provision of education and professional development to industry members;
  • the operation of display services for plans and specifications for the convenience of owners, designers, and member firms;
  • the provision of labour relations services;
  • the provision of alternative dispute resolution services;
  • the promotion of business relations between members of every sector of the construction industry in the community;
  • resolution of industry-related concerns raised by members.

To achieve these aims and objectives, each association periodically elects a chairperson and board of directors selected from the membership at large. Equal representation is sought from the following industry sectors:

  • general contractors;
  • trade contractors;
  • mechanical and electrical contractors;
  • manufacturers, supply and service companies, and professionals.

Elected representatives from each construction association or local chapter within a province/territory also form a council. The council’s tasks include lobbying the provincial/territorial government on issues such as:

  • workers’ compensation;
  • health and safety legislation;
  • lien legislation;
  • provincial/territorial tax matters;
  • employment equity;
  • other construction industry-related issues.

For more information on affiliated provincial/territorial, regional, and local construction associations, contact the provincial, territorial, or local construction association.

Construction Associations and Bid Depositories

Most urban communities throughout Canada have a local construction association that supports its members through local advocacy and services. These construction associations operate under the direction of a chair and board of directors elected periodically from volunteer representatives of local user groups and professionals.

In some instances, local construction associations provide bid depository services to members. A bid depository operates as an adjunct to the local construction association. Although bid depositories are diminishing in popularity, being replaced by electronic file formats and transfer, they continue to be used in British Columbia and are mandated by legislation in Quebec. 

Construction associations and their bid depositories help to manage the bid process by:

  • disseminating bid documentation, information and addenda;
  • promptly collecting trade contractor bids for multiple-trade projects.

These trade or subcontractor bids are distributed to general contractors so that they may be included in the general contractor’s bid for major construction projects.

Bidding through bid depositories follows a strict set of rules and guidelines. The purpose of these rules is to:

  • minimize confusion;
  • limit bid shopping;
  • make all required information available to all members of each bid depository and to all general contractor bidders registered with that bid depository.

For more information on rules, procedures, electronic plans rooms and other services, contact the local bid depository or construction association.

Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA)

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) represents Canada’s residential construction industry, with more than 8,000 member firms across Canada. CHBA members represent every area of Canada’s housing industry — new home builders and renovators, land developers, trade contractors, product and material manufacturers, building product suppliers, lending institutions, insurance providers, service professionals and others.

For further information on the CHBA, contact: 

Canadian Home Builders’ Association
150 Laurier Avenue W., Suite 500 
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J4
Tel: (613) 230-3060
Fax: (613) 232-8214

Construction Safety

Construction is an industry in which the risk of human injury and fatality is always present. According to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada, between 2015 and 2017 the construction industry in Canada ranked second in the number of accepted lost time claims and highest in the number of fatalities by industry (Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada). The architect needs to understand the importance of construction safety and the environment in which construction safety is regulated. Construction safety is a provincial/territorial responsibility, and there are means both for insuring workers and for securing a safe construction site in every jurisdiction. The architect should be familiar with the requirements in the jurisdiction in which each project is located.

Workplace Safety Insurance Boards or Workers’ Compensation Boards

Construction, like many industries, is hazardous. Many serious and permanent injuries, or even deaths, occur on construction sites each year.

To minimize the proliferation of individual personal injury lawsuits resulting from workplace injuries, each province/territory has assumed the responsibility for paying compensation to injured workers. This benefit is in return for workers surrendering their rights to pursue lawsuits or legal action. Workers’ compensation legislation varies jurisdiction by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, workers’ compensation and health and safety are administered by one organization.

The adjudication of claims is overseen by a board or commission, which reviews each case on its own merits and awards benefits to injured workers based on pre-established policies and a scale of compensation.

For this system and its claims to be financed, employers are assessed by the degree to which their workers are exposed to workplace hazards. The board establishes installments or premiums, which are to be paid by each employer for every worker in its employ. All employers are required to maintain installments in good standing to the compensation board. Failure to comply can result in significant fines or even prosecution.

Architects, like contractors, employ workers exposed to the dangers of construction sites, and thus are required to maintain such installments in good standing. Because not all jurisdictions require architects to pay workers’ compensation premiums, architects should confirm their obligations with workers’ compensation boards in the jurisdiction in which they practise.

In addition, architects, as part of the construction administration services performed for clients, should verify that all construction workers employed by contractors on each project are covered by workplace safety insurance by obtaining letters of good standing. Architects should routinely request from the general contractor a certificate of good standing issued by the workplace safety insurance board to verify that all workers are protected. Failure to do so may result in claims involving the client, the constructor, and the injured worker. See also Chapter 6.6 – Contract Administration – Office Functions and Field Functions.

For more information on workplace safety (compensation) insurance, contact the provincial/territorial workplace safety insurance board.

Construction Safety Associations

Some provincial/territorial construction safety associations offer a broad range of products and services to help reduce the number of job-site accidents, injuries, occupational diseases and fatalities.

In most instances, construction safety associations operate under the provincial or territorial workers’ compensation legislation to promote health and safety in the construction industry.

The associations operate through a system of joint labour/management committees, which:

  • review worksite health and safety problems;
  • make recommendations to government and other organizations for improvements to legislation and regulations affecting the construction industry.

The associations engage consultants to:

  • conduct safety audits and accident analysis;
  • design programs for general safety and projects for special needs.

Besides acting as a secretariat to the labour and management committees, these associations also offer training and educational programs through community colleges/cégeps and other venues for apprentices, journeymen, trade unions, management organizations and individual firms.

In addition, these safety associations:

  • conduct research on hazardous products;
  • develop safety procedures;
  • compile statistics;
  • publish periodicals.

For more information on activities, services, products and publications, contact the provincial/territorial construction safety association.

Construction Industry Consultative Committee (CICC)

The Construction Industry Consultative Committee (CICC) is comprised of the chief elected and senior staff officers of the following national organizations:

  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC);
  • Canadian Construction Association (CCA);
  • Construction Specifications Canada (CSC);
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

See this chapter for a description of the CCA. See Chapter 1.6 – The Organization of the Profession in Canada for a description of the RAIC. See also Chapter 2.3 – Consultants for descriptions of the ACEC and the CSC.

The Construction Industry Consultative Committee’s (CICC) role is to provide a forum for the exchange of information, views, and policy on issues of general and specific interest to the construction industry. The CICC attempts to express these positions in a coordinated and consistent manner, representative of the entire construction industry, and to communicate its position to government or other public bodies.

Its administrative function is to oversee, coordinate and direct the activities of the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) and to promote the use of CCDC Documents.

For further information on the Construction Industry Consultative Committee, contact:

The Secretary
Construction Industry Consultative Committee

400–75 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7
Tel: (613) 236-9455
Fax: (613) 236-9526

Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC)

The Canadian Construction Documents Committee’s (CCDC) role and responsibilities are to periodically revise, update or draft new standard forms of contract and other national standard guides and documents for general use by the construction industry in both the private and public sectors throughout Canada.

The Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) is comprised of skilled and experienced practitioners from each sector of the consulting and construction industry to represent their sector’s interests. 

The practitioners are selected by the following national organizations:

  • Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC);
  • Canadian Construction Association (CCA);
  • Construction Specifications Canada (CSC);
  • Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).

In addition, there are representatives from owners’ groups or organizations as well as a representative of the legal profession.

The Canadian Construction Documents Committee’s (CCDC) activities are governed by the Construction Industry Consultative Committee, which sets an annual agenda of activities for the CCDC.

All decisions of the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC) are reached through consensus. Only when consensus is achieved on an entire document is it offered to the four national organizations with a recommendation for endorsement. All constituent bodies must endorse all CCDC-prepared documents before publication.

For further information on the CCDC, contact: 

The Secretary
Canadian Construction Documents Committee

400-75 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5E7 
Tel: (613) 236-9455
Fax: (613) 236-9526

See “Appendix A – List: Canadian Construction Documents Committee Contract Agreement Forms and Guides” at the end of this chapter.

Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC)

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) is a not-for-profit, national organization that has been working since 2002 to advance green building and sustainable community development practices in Canada. The CaGBC is the licence holder for the LEED green building rating system in Canada, and supports the WELL Building Standard and Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) in Canada. 

Visit to learn more:

See Chapter 2.5 – Standards Organizations, Certification and Testing Agencies, and Trade Associations for a detailed description of the CaGBC.

Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) and buildingSMART Canada

Institute for BIM in Canada

The mission of the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) is to lead and facilitate the coordinated use of building information modeling (BIM) in the design, construction and management of the Canadian built environment. 

Building SMART Canada

Established and initially run by the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC), bSC carries on the common goal of supporting the implementation of BIM in a way and at a pace that enables industry to successfully achieve improvements in project delivery and lifecycle management of the built environment.

For descriptions of the Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC), and buildingSMART Canada, a council of IBC, see Chapter 5.6 – Building Information Modeling

For contract documents published by IBC, see “Appendix C – List: Institute for BIM in Canada (IBC) Contract Agreement Forms and Appendices”.


“National Work Injury and Fatality Statistics Publication 2015-2017.” Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada (AWCBC),, accessed November 10, 2019.

Kirsh, Harvey J. and Paul A. Ivanoff. The Canadian Construction Law Dictionary (Judicially Considered). Markham, ON: LexisNexis, 2006.

Forbes, J.R. Dictionary of Architecture and Construction — French/English and English/French. Fourth edition. Paris, France: Technique et Documentation, 2004.

Maclean, James H. and John S. Scott. Dictionary of Building. Fourth edition. London, England: Penguin Books, 2000.

“Labour force characteristics by industry, annual (x 1,000).” Statistics Canada, April 21, 2020,, accessed April 21, 2020.

Stein, J. Stewart (1993). Construction Glossary. Toronto, Ont.: John Wiley & Sons.