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AIA Contracts: Types and Benefits

February 9th, 2023 | 9 min. read

AIA Contracts: Types and Benefits

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If you are planning your first building project, architecture and construction contracts are likely new territory. Contracts can feel tedious—and even intimidating—but reviewing them clarifies the roles, responsibilities, and rights of everyone involved in your project. 

While there are a variety of architecture and construction contracts, the documents produced by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are the most widely used. These documents have been around since 1887, and industry professionals are well-versed in their language. 

We have helped many clients understand the nuances of AIA documents. To help you, this article will break down: 

  • The benefits of using AIA documents, 
  • The types of AIA documents, 
  • The Types of Owner/Architect Agreements. 

Benefits of AIA Contracts 

The AIA creates over 200 contract templates for the design and construction industry. These contracts have been around for over 100 years and have been revised to reflect both changes in the industry and advice from building owners, architects, contractors, insurers, and attorneys.   

Generally considered fair for all parties, AIA documents are the benchmark for managing the transactions and relationships involved in construction projects. 

AIA contracts also benefit from being part of a series of interconnected documents. For example, the contract between the building owner and architect reflects the contracts between the architect and their consultants. These connections create a clear understanding of the responsibilities and rights of all parties.  

Although AIA contracts are popular, they are not the only contract available. Many universities and municipalities may have personalized documents for construction projects. However, outside these unique circumstances, most projects default to AIA agreements. 

Types of AIA Documents 

As mentioned, contracts are a part of a series of AIA documents. The AIA breaks these documents into seven categories: 

1. A-Series 

The A-Series contains Owner/contractor agreements. There are a variety of agreements available that reflect different project delivery methods and payment systems. While some contracts are better suited for smaller commercial and residential projects, others are more complex. 

2. B-Series 

The B-Series contains Owner/architect agreements. Like the A-Series, the B-Series includes several agreements that fit different project types. We will discuss these in greater detail in the next section. 

3. C-Series 

The C-Series contains other types of agreements. Most agreements in this section fit consultant work. While some agreements are between architects and consultants, others are for owners. Like the other A and B-Series, these agreements reflect different project delivery methods. 

4. D-Series 

The D-Series contains miscellaneous documents, including: 

  • Methods of Calculating Areas and Volumes of Buildings, 
  • Project Checklist, 
  • Guide to Sustainable Project. 

5. E-Series 

The E-Series includes Exhibits that outline roles and responsibilities related to sustainable design and construction. This section also includes an exhibit for Building Information Modeling (BIM) and digital data. 

6. F-Series  

This F-Series includes documents that address building repair, maintenance, and improvement. These documents may be used for to address the scope, schedule, and compensation of short-term or on-going maintenance work.  

7. G-Series 

The G-Series contains protocol documents related to Contract Administration. These documents include: 

  • Change order forms, 
  • Application and certificate of payment forms, 
  • Request for Information (RFI) forms, 
  • Certificates of Substantial and Final Completion, 
  • And more. 

Types of Owner/Architect Agreements 

The B-Series of AIA Documents outlines over 20 types of Owner/Architect agreements. The contract your architect uses depends on the size and complexity of your project, as well as your project delivery method. Below, we’ll discuss the agreements you are most likely to encounter. 

B101-2017: Owner/Architect Agreement 

Typically, the B101 agreement is used for larger projects. It divides services into basic, supplemental, and additional services and fits a variety of compensation methods, including a percentage of construction costs and lump sums. 

B105-2017: Short Form Owner/Architect Agreement   

Typically, this contract is used for smaller residential and commercial projects. It is more condensed than agreements for more complex projects. Although the B105 is common with residential projects, some architects may use a B110 agreement instead. 

B121: Standard Master Agreement 

Often, the B121 agreement is used for long-term clients with recurring work. The contract establishes a master agreement, and the architect puts in a service order for each new project. 

B132: Owner/Architect Agreement, CMa Addition 

As mentioned, AIA contracts reflect different project delivery methods. The B132 agreement is used for projects that use a Construction Manager Agent (CMa) delivery method. With this method, the Construction Manager acts as an adviser, and the owner holds contracts with multiple prime contractors. 

B133: Owner/Architect Agreement, CMc Addition 

The B133 agreement is used on projects where the Construction Manager acts as the contractor. Typically, this agreement fits Construction Manager At-Risk (CMR) projects where the CM performs some of the construction work and requests bids for other portions. 

What Are Your Next Steps? 

Building projects involve many moving parts, but contracts outline the responsibilities and protect the rights of all necessary parties. AIA contracts are the most common type of contract in the design and construction industry, and understanding the types and differences can set you up for success. 

AIA contracts can fit any project delivery method and can be modified for unique project circumstances. Early discussions about project delivery with your architect will improve outcomes once the project is underway. Learn more by reading about the pros and cons of five project delivery methods.