Canada’s Oldest and Largest Mixed-Trade Association


tcaBy Anna Guy

Older than the country itself, the venerable Toronto Construction Association’s proud legacy is as celebrated as its bright future.

Certainly, it’s a very distinguishing fact: the Toronto Construction Association (TCA)—150 years old this year—is older than Canada itself (by a few months). Established in February, 1867, it is the oldest and largest mixed-trade association in the country.

As venerated as the TCA’s history is, it is what is ahead that has its members most excited. The industry is now facing the possibility that it may change more in the next ten years than it has in the past 150.

When talking about the industry and the evolution of the industry since the TCA was created, there is a great deal that is relatively unchanged. Yet, in terms of technology, TCA president John Mollenhauer calls it a “exponential age” where new technologies are constantly being introduced that can greatly impact the industry.

Exponential Age

“Who would have believed that we could build 10 houses in 24 hours? Or a 6-storey office building with a 3D printer?” says Mollenhauer. “Our industry is really beginning to become affected by this notion of new technologies, new methodologies, new approaches, a and new culture of collaboration.”

Toronto boasts one of the largest construction markets in the world, and represents seven per cent of Ontario’s total workforce. The TCA works on behalf of the industry through education, training, and political advocacy—best positioning its members to not only embrace change, but lead it.

“We need to embrace change, and look at training and innovation as an investment, rather than a cost,” says Mollenhauer. “The TCA stands behind that. Technology can mean enormous productivity savings, cost savings, and schedule efficiencies. We see technology as a process, not an event.”

The TCA has committees that function like brain trusts that examine all the moving parts of the industry, identifying issues, provide members with best practises, and precipitating involvement on a legislative level when needed.

Modernizing the Construction Lien Act

The TCA has been heavily involved in the Construction Lien Act, bringing to light what the TCA considers the chronic issues of delayed payment that are endemic in the construction industry. Titled the Reynolds-Vogel Report, the report presented 100 recommendations to modernize the Act. “[Reformation] will be a good thing for the industry,” says Mollenhauer, who adds quick “real time” dispute resolution system for project disputes and the introduction of a prompt payment regime are key focuses and “much needed in Ontario.”

“The industry has grown and diversified,” says Mollenhauer. “The industry is traditionally portrayed as a slow mover in terms of productivity and innovation and we are beginning to see that change at a pace we’ve never seen. New methodologies, and the size of infrastructure projects are all evolving. The industry has morphed in recent years but also shown capacity to evolve and change and tackle new challenges.”


The model that is most used in the industry is Design, Bid, Build, but that is starting to change. With Design, Bid, and Built (DBB), a client brings an architect on to scope out a project, and when the drawings and specs are completed, that package goes to tender, presumably to a group of prequalified invited bidders, with a decision made based on lowest bid.

“In the last decade, we have seen clients with a sense of urgency to deliver product sooner,” says Mollenhauer. “Because of this, managers are favouring construction management over DBB because it allows them to overlap the design and construction phases, and save time and cost. We are seeing the beginnings of collaborative contracts like Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), a construction methodology for the industry wherein both the architect, design team and the general contractor can add value working together collaboratively to help owner meet their ultimate objective.” With IPD becoming increasingly popular, the TCA is helping buyers and contractors alike see the benefit of early collaboration.
The TCA has also seen advantages applying the IPD model for large P3 projects—that often go into the billions of dollars in cost. “We have really seen enormous success with the collaborative approach to large infrastructure projects,” says Mollenhauer.

New methodologies, new technology, and innovation—all leading to productivity on levels not seen before. As the Toronto construction industry develops in ways no one imagined 150 years ago, the TCA remains a stalwart supporter of its members. In this era of rapid change, the Mollenhauer and his team are dedicated to ensuring the working conditions, wages, safety, and education of the industry has a strong ally.