Industry Standards, and How to Raise Them

Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Coming together in beautiful Victoria, BC in May, the National Convention of the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada had much to celebrate – its 50th anniversary, and its decisive intervention to boost standards in the architectural woodwork industry through the whole of North America.

It was work, being the annual general meeting, but it was richly deserved pleasure, too.

With a packed convention schedule covering a broad range of topics such as “Architectural Woodwork – Getting What You Want” by Martin Berryman, and David Chalk’s “What’s Automation Got to Do with It?” members also found time for architectural tours of the BC Legislature, a Victoria Historic City walk and much social activity.

It was a case of celebrating and building on what had gone before.

Proud history
The roots of the AWMAC go back almost one hundred years to the 1920s, when millwork operators around Vancouver were striving to improve conditions in the industry.

Their success resulted in the founding of the Mainland Millwork Association in 1948. In the ’50s it became the Architectural Woodwork Association. Finally, thanks to the efforts of Gary Nikolai of Vancouver in promoting a woodworker’s association that would be national in scope, it became the Architectural Woodwork Manufacturers Association of Canada (AWMAC) that we know today.

AWMAC’s first official meeting – with members from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia – was held in Vancouver on September 25, 1970. Fittingly, Gary Nikolai was elected President, with W.C. (Bill) Ellison appointed the Association’s Secretary / Treasurer. In 1974, the growing Alberta chapter divided into northern and southern chapters.

Today, with over 400 members nationwide, AWMAC represents a variety of related interests including woodwork manufacturers, architects, designers, suppliers, and others in the architectural woodworking field. With eight chapters – each of which has a rep on the National Board – AWMAC has representation coast-to-coast: in British Columbia, Northern Alberta (servicing the Northern Territories), Southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic.

Performance check
In collaboration with the Woodwork Institute (which serves the United States), AWMAC released the North American Architectural Woodwork Standards (NAAWS) in 2017.

“The NAAWS manual is a comprehensive set of standards that represents the best of what these two organizations have to offer in defining the requirements of material and workmanship for the fabrication and installation of architectural woodwork,” says AWMAC National Executive Director Michelle Morrell.

Instead of multiple texts, NAAWS is a single comprehensive, progressive woodwork standard for all of North America. Replacing the previous Architectural Woodwork Standards, it is a free PDF for limited use by design professionals, building owners, contractors, fabricators, installers and educational institutions.

Periodically updated and now at edition 3.1, NAAWS is available in English and French, and can be purchased in hard copy. Designed with digital use in mind, the PDF version has a relatively small file size. Convenient, searchable and interactive, it is usable on any platform or device.

“As updated versions of the manual are issued through errata, the digital version is updated online,” Michelle Morrell of AWMAC says. “The manual has interactive elements for navigation and for highlighting relevant standards as you use it.”

Providing design professionals with a wealth of information including terminology and test criteria to determine compliance, NAAWS helps ensure that manufacturers and installers bidding on a project compete on an equal basis and perform work to a specified standard.

Volunteer power
Together with 60 plus directors across Canada, AWMAC benefits from the work of over 80 or so dedicated volunteers, many of them sitting on a board, or serving on committees. With nine boards in total (eight chapter boards and one national) and over 30 committees, AWMAC volunteers represent the industry nationwide.

They work with educational institutions, affiliated organizations, and industry professionals to spread the word about the Association through trade shows, industry conventions, and through actively promoting woodworking as a career to youth.

With its stated mission of developing and promoting AWMAC’s standards for manufacturing and installing architectural woodwork and promoting “assurance of adherence to those quality standards, and sustainable practices, in the woodworking industry,” the Association proudly upholds its vision: “To be the architectural woodwork industry authority in Canada.”

AWMAC has a variety of objectives. It provides education on woodwork and offers assistance to all project stakeholders. Leveling the playing field during initial bid processes by ensuring that specifications are clear and complete brings a strong measure of protection to participants and an assurance of quality of materials and quality of labor.

AWMAC initiatives
According to AWMAC’s National Executive Director Michelle Morrell, the Association is active on several initiatives. These include branding the organization throughout Canada, and the development of a new marketing campaign, with all chapters now having standardized marketing materials.

Undergoing Chapter Standardization, AWMAC is developing consistent membership classes, policies and procedures for all chapters throughout Canada. And through collaboration with the Woodwork Institute, its U.S. counterpart, the two are working to improve and promote the NAAWS manual across North America.

As well as its annual National Convention – hosted by a different regional Chapter each year to foster education, networking and industry-leader recognition – AWMAC offers a range of initiatives to develop and promote the architectural woodwork industry, while educating students.

AWMAC’s Partner Program provides suppliers with the opportunity to support the association while also positioning their business with others trusted for utmost quality assurance and innovation. AWMAC currently has 16 Partners across Canada.

“The National Contest for Apprentices and Students in Cabinet-Making encourages students to test their skills and gain further awareness of the industry in their regional Chapter, and for the opportunity to be judged again at the National level,” Morrell says. “Our new Students Standards Questionnaire enables students to utilize and familiarize themselves with AWMAC’s STANDARDS and our recent Tool Bag Program is a collaboration with educational institutes to support and recognize students through a free tool bag and tools.”

Another way AWMAC keeps members informed is through The Sounding Board. Published bi-annually, the Association’s official publication serves to inspire others, and features outstanding member projects.

Raising industry standards
Committed to the highest quality in all aspects of architectural woodwork, AWMAC promotes adherence to its quality standards to ensure competence and credibility. It pursues innovation through collaboration, and acts as the educational voice for the industry, supporting a sustainable workforce and methods. To deliver on these attributes, AWMAC utilizes the strength of its Standards, and the Guarantee and Inspection Service.

Initiated by AWMAC’s British Columbia Chapter in 1990 and adopted as a national program in 1994, the Guarantee and Inspection Service builds on the Association’s Standards and is designed to ensure project owners “receive quality and value for their investment through monitoring and verification of the architectural woodwork at all stages,” Morrell says. This includes a pre-tender review, submittals review, sample unit inspection, progress inspection, and final site inspection. “To further enhance the GIS, a two-year Certificate of Guarantee is offered by AWMAC once all criteria are met.”



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