Canada: Construction Contracts For Projects In Canada: AIA Documents And CCDC Comparison

Last Updated: April 20 2015
Article by Roy Nieuwenburg


As a Canadian law firm with an extensive construction law practice, we are often asked to review or prepare construction contracts for U.S. clients engaged in construction projects in Canada. A frequent choice has to be made as to whether to use U.S. forms of standard documents (and adapt them as needed for the Canadian context) or use the Canadian standard industry documents (and adapt them as needed in the other direction). This article touches on some of the pros and cons and related consideration for this decision.


The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is responsible for the "AIA Contract Documents® THE INDUSTRY STANDARD." The slogan says it all – these contract documents are the industry standard in the U.S.

In Canada, the leading source is the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC). The CCDC is a national joint committee formed in 1974. The CCDC is comprised of volunteer members of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada, the Canadian Construction Association, Construction Specifications Canada, and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, and includes owner representatives from the public and private sectors.


The AIA appears to have vast resources. They produce a broad array of documents. This is evident from their "Document Families" framework. The AIA Contract Documents are divided into nine families based on project type or delivery method. Documents in each family provide a consistent structure and text to support the major contracts needed. The "Document Families" framework makes it easy to select the most appropriate standard forms for the project. Drafting work for syntax and terminology is minimized.

The CCDC documents do a good job of covering the bases, but do so less extensively and, by comparison, in some areas are more rudimentary. This is to be expected, given that the CCDC is not able to leverage the economies of scale available to U.S. counterparts.


The AIA documents appear to be reasonably balanced. For a project in the U.S., the AIA documents would require some customization to suit the preferences and specific requirements for the project and the client. They are otherwise pretty much "ready to go."

Significant supplementary conditions are indispensable, I would say, for the CCDC documents. Not surprisingly, use of such supplementary conditions is pervasive. In my experience this is particularly important for the owner/client wishing to engage a contractor. For a project in Canada for a U.S. client, the usual supplementary conditions would be needed if CCDC is followed, and in addition the preferences and specific requirements for the project and the client would have to be incorporated.


The AIA documents are geared to be user-friendly. A user can make edits in the body of the text. When the final version is generated for execution, the software program demands that all edits will be conspicuously identified (as, of course, they should be).

In contrast, the CCDC documents prohibit such edits in the body of the documents. This is enforced by asserting copyright. Users are constrained to making changes through supplementary conditions. This requires cross-referencing the applicable paragraphs and sections, which is laborious and can be unwieldy. There is a lot more "flipping of pages" back and forth when working with the CCDC forms.


If the contractor is U.S. based, and a U.S. architect is leading the project, with a U.S. client needing to construct a tenant fitout or facility in Canada, then there is a lot to be said for using the AIA documents (which everyone will be familiar with) and adapting as needed.

If the contractor or the architect or both are Canadian, they will likely be more accustomed and comfortable with the CCDC documents. Use of the CCDC documents can serve a vital function: the contractor can feel assured that the contractor need only focus on the supplementary conditions proposed by the owner, satisfied that the rest of the contract terms will be sufficiently friendly to the contractor.


Whether the contract is based on AIA or CCDC, you will want to address a number of issues. To give a sense of the kinds of subjects to consider, here is a sampling:

  • Liens will stymie funding draws. If the owner has duly paid all progress claims owed to the contractor, then from the owner's perspective the contractor should be responsible under the contract to obtain and register at the land title office a discharge of any liens that are filed (or get a Court order cancelling the liens, if necessary). Commonly the AIA and CCDC standard forms do not adequately provide for this. Under the builders lien legislation in Canada, typically a construction lender will not fund the next draw if one or more liens appear on title.
  • Notice that landlord will not be responsible. Commonly a notice must be filed at the applicable land registry or posted on the worksite so that the landlord is not responsible for work engaged by a tenant. Failure to address this adequately may result in the tenant being in default under the lease (which can result in termination of the lease, or withholding of a tenant improvement allowance to be paid by the landlord).
  • Canada's tendering framework. The Supreme Court of Canada case of Ron Engineering established a contracting framework for competitive bidding in Canada that appears to be counter-intuitive to those accustomed to the U.S. model. This framework incorporates a duty to treat all bidders fairly and to act in good faith. What appears to be fair to one party is often perceived to be unfair from the vantage of another – yet legally you will be expected to be fair to all. Unless appreciated and managed, this can give rise to unexpected liability.
  • Worker Safety. The occupational health and safety obligations are typically more strident in Canada and call for the designation of a "prime contractor" to be responsible. Owners need to be aware of this and clearly designate responsibility.
  • Payment certifier. Canadian jurisdictions formally impose responsibilities on the person required to be identified as the "payment certifier." This needs to be recognized and addressed in the contract. In addition, if the architect is designated for this role and does not have a presence in the applicable jurisdiction, then the architect may be unwilling to complete the prescribed certifications without performing the necessary field reviews. This may necessitate engaging a local architect accredited in the jurisdiction (who will want to be separately compensated for the field reviews).
  • Liquidated damages. Many U.S. parties are surprised by the constraints under Canadian law for liquidated damages. This frequently requires customization.
  • Federal procurement. Federal procurement involves another layer of considerations.


Of course the legal terms of the contract are just one component of the big picture. Getting the specs right (or the owner's statement of requirements) of course is critical. The selection of the "right contractor" is critical. Attentiveness and diligence in managing the progress of the work is critical. If there are problems or the project goes sideways, then having stellar legal terms won't assuredly save the day. But they will help, and often they are essential. U.S. clients engaged in construction projects in Canada will want to arrive at a contract matching their usual expectations, to the extent practicable, and be aware of areas where differences arise. This can be done on the U.S. platform (AIA documents) or the Canadian platform (CCDC documents). Either way, some massaging is required.

Previously published in the Spring/Summer edition of USLAW Magazine.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Roy Nieuwenburg
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions