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AIA Contract Documents: The Best Option
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 documents.

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 lawyers).

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 approaches.

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.

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