One hundred and twenty eight years ago the leading master steamfitters in the Nation’s Capital formed an association to identify themselves as responsible contractors and employers of the competent craftsmen as a service to the design and construction profession.
Although this Association has changed its name four times, the continuity of its operation and service has remained constant. The Master Steam Fitters Association of Washington, DC. was formed July 29, 1889 and later changed to the Heating, Piping and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc in 1918. This Association’s name changed in 1954 to Mechanical Contractors D.C. Association, Inc. then to its present name Mechanical Contractors Association of Metropolitan Washington (MCAMW) in 2000. It started out with six (6) members: W.W. Briggs, Heating & Ventilating; E.J. Febrey; Walter Higgins; Hubbard Manufacturing Company; Johnson & Morris; and Zellers Company. The Association’s first officers were George Zellers, President; Jerome Hubbard, Vice President; and Thomas Eagan, Secretary.
The MCAMW has played a significant role in the advancement of the construction industry in this section of the United States. Together with its labor partners, each have made history in bringing their segment of local industry from a position of immaturity and conflict to one of professionalism, compatibility and dependability. They have gone from the early fundamental processes to highly sophisticated mechanical systems involving computers and electronics, automation on all types of construction, private and public.
From the early 1920s through World War II, the Washington area lived through some wide swings in construction activity. A recession in 1921-1922 was followed by a rise in construction activity in the mid 20’s. This was followed by the 1929 crash which, of course, resulted in a very serious period of unemployment and depression. Beginning in 1933, the recovery program brought about the construction of many government buildings and this pattern continued until World War II began. The war brought private residential construction in DC almost to a standstill. However, the 40s were still boom years, due largely to America’s involvement in the war. Major military installations were established in the DC area along with related medical facilities. Following the war, with minimum change over time, conversion to a civilian economy resulted in many major construction projects for utilities, sewer and water treatment, schools, churches, shopping centers, apartments and many other commercial and industrial buildings. The boom continued.
In the 1970s, developments brought significant changes to the construction industry. The oil crisis, inflation, high interest rates, costs of land and money for construction, high contract settlements, inefficiencies, technological changes, the owners increase demand for cost effectiveness….all brought on a new surge of competitiveness for the union contractor….a challenge that both labor and management are still meeting today.
Now, 128 years old, the Association still flourishes and remains to be a vital component of the mechanical contracting industry. As personal technology has grown and changed so has the industry technology in the construction world. With BIM (Building Information Modeling) Pre-Fabrication and CAD (computer aided design)…mechanical contractors can complete projects more efficiently and timely. Smart phones & Ipads with texting, scanning and email capabilities have changed the course of jobsite communication.
Since the centennial celebration in 1989, the Association has continued to channel its emphasis on the needs of its members. MCAMW’s Service Contractors Bureau… established in 1998 focuses on the service industry while the Plumbing Contractors’ Bureau… established in 2008 focuses on plumbing contractors. Two Student Chapters were established to recruit management personnel; in 2000 a Student Chapter was formed at Virginia Tech and in 2007, at the University of Maryland. These college recruitments often become the Young LEEDERs, a group formed in 2007 to help these young executives gain professional fundamentals thru Lunch & Learns and networking opportunities. These practices in development of the future leaders will prepare them for the difficult times ahead as the industry faces conflicts with non-union competitors, labor relations and legislative issues that affect them.
The MCAMW’s strong commitment to education and training has always been at the forefront of its success. From energy efficiency to environmental sensitivity, the Associations’ leaders recognize it takes the combined talent of skilled labor and teamwork for a union mechanical contractor to erect a building and put it into operation. This is particularly true with the even more intricate and complex mechanical systems in the handsome modern structures of our Nation’s Capital. These practices, integrity and know-how represented throughout this Association have been carried over from the 19th Century into the 21st Century, where our member contractors continue to face triumphantly new challenges in this ever changing market-place.