AIA Contract Documents: The Best Option
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By Timothy Twomey, AIA, Esq.
For 120 years, AIA Contract Documents have defined the relationship and terms
involved in design and construction projects. During this time, AIA Contract
Documents have been the primary national source of standard form documents, both
reflecting and defining standard industry practices. Many of the concepts,
indeed even some of the language, contained in other standard forms, government
contracts and custom-drafted documents, can be traced back to AIA standard form
The AIA develops its agreements and contracts with input from owners,
contractors, architects and engineers, so that the interests of all parties
involved in construction projects are represented. Because of their history and
expertise, AIA Contract Documents provide users with the most comprehensive
program, including documents and forms that reflect current industry practices
and which fairly balance interests.
According to the results of the AIA’s 2008 Market Surveys Report, which gauges
the industry’s opinions and ongoing experience with AIA Contract Documents, one
of the top perceived benefits of AIA Contract Documents is that they are
widely-accepted in the construction industry. Of the entire sample of lawyers,
contractors, owners, architects and developers, 89 percent agreed that AIA
Contract Documents are widely-accepted in the construction industry. This is a
benefit that is bolstered by findings that the respondents’ choice is to use
standard documents that are accepted across the industry.
Other top benefits are that using AIA Contract Documents saves time, and that
the documents are fair and balanced for all parties. Two-thirds of respondents,
including 82 percent of commercial contractors, agreed that the documents are
written to be fair and balanced for all parties, and nearly 8 in 10 construction
law attorneys use the documents to save time. Because AIA Contract Documents
software is based on the widely-accepted Microsoft® Word platform, users can
easily create, edit, share, track changes and manage documents.
AIA Contract Documents also define an equitable allocation of risk and
responsibility. They are therefore subject to uniform legal interpretations and
conform to common and statutory law adopted in the majority of jurisdictions so
as to be predictably enforceable. Additionally, AIA Contract Documents clearly
define duties and responsibilities of the parties, using language that is
unambiguous and can be comprehended by users and interpreters (courts and
Furthermore, the AIA understands that the design and construction industry is
evolving, and it continues to light the way by creating documents and resources
that are necessary to lead the industry in new practices and project delivery
Recent examples include the industry’s leading Integrated Project Delivery: A
Guide, a 2007 publication written in conjunction with AIA’s California Council,
that provides information and guidance on the principles and techniques of
Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). In 2007, AIA Contract Documents also released
a new Digital Data Protocol Exhibit (E201-2007) to assist parties in structuring
and organizing their electronic document sharing processes. Additionally, AIA
released two new families of IPD agreement documents in May 2008 to structure
the implementation of IPD principles.
Most recently, in October 2008, AIA released a new Building Information Modeling
Protocol Exhibit (E202-2008).
The E202-2008 was written by industry practitioners as a practical tool for
managing the use of BIM across the entire project, facilitating the
establishment of protocols, expected levels of development and authorized uses
of BIM models. For the first time in the industry, this new AIA tool effectively
allows users to work in partnership and assign responsibilities to successfully
manage a BIM model.
As the design and construction industry changes, AIA Contract Documents will
continue to be most stakeholders’ first choice for standard contract documents.
Perhaps Jim Bedrick, Vice President of Virtual Building and Design at Webcor
Builders in San Mateo, California, says it best: “Regardless of what others say
about AIA Contract Documents, there’s one thing that can’t be disputed, they are
time tested and have kept up with changes occurring within the building industry
which brings a level of confidence to any construction project.
Even those who use in-house contracts and agreements often use AIA Contract
Documents as a basis to work from.”
Timothy Twomey, AIA, Esq. is the Immediate Past Chair of the AIA
Documents Committee, and is Principal and General Counsel at Shepley
Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, Inc.
Article originally printed in The VOICE, Spring 2009. It is
reprinted with permission from The Construction Users Roundtable and
Matrix Group Publishing. This article does not necessarily reflect the
opinions of CURT or its Board.