Best Practices – Standard Form Agreements – Why AIA Contracts May Not Be Right For You?

A few weeks ago, I published an article where I shared with you that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) updated it’s suite of design and construction contracts.

In the US, the AIA is the predominant source for standard forms, but it isn’t the only source.  In fact there are quite a few sources for standard form agreements.  Each one is written with a certain perspective and they all have their pros and cons.

Today I wanted to list the ones I am aware of and invite all of you to share any others I may have missed.

American Institute of Architects (AIA) Contract Documents

The most prevalent set of contract documents in the United States are the AIA Contract Documents.

AIA Contract Docs are written by the American Institute of Architects.

AIA Contract Docs offer over 200 documents which include standard forms of agreement for a variety of delivery and pricing models, standard general conditions documents complementing each of the contract forms, and several forms and exhibits.

You may purchase any AIA document from the website  Documents may be purchased individually or in packages.


The second most commonly used set of contract documents are called ConsensusDocs.  These forms are produced by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

ConsensusDocs were first published in the 1990’s and became prevalent in the early 2000’s.  These documents closely follow the suite of documents from the AIA, but they have their own perspective on specific legal concepts.  There is a good comparison provided by ConsensusDocs that matches up ConsensusDocs with AIA Documents at this link here.

Contractor’s favor ConsensusDocs over AIA because certain terms are considered to be more neutral than the AIA equivalent.

You may purchase ConsensusDoc’s from their website

Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) Contracts

If you are interested in utilizing a design-build delivery approach, you might find DBIA Contracts especially interesting.  These documents are created by the Design-Build Institute of America and are exclusively for design-build projects.

There are of course far less forms available from DBIA, but they do seem to have a robust set of forms and exhibits.  I have less experience using DBIA contracts, but I know them to be a reputable set of documents.

You can purchase DBIA Contracts on their website

Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) Contract Documents

Not to be outdone by their Architect peers, the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has also published it’s full suite of contract documents.

NSPE advertises it’s suite of contracts as, a “fair and objective standard documents that represent the latest and best thinking in contractual relations between all parties involved in engineering design and construction projects. The committee is made up of the National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies, and the American Society of Civil Engineers and involves the participation of more than 15 other professional engineering design, construction, owner, legal, and risk management organizations”

I have no prior experience with EJCDC contracts, but as you might assume, their series of agreements appear to be tailored to projects that are more for heavy industrial projects like utility projects, or perhaps rail projects.

You can purchase EJCDC Contract Documents here.


So the next time you need a contract for your construction project, keep in mind that you have many options.

Standard form agreements are a great option, but be sure to seek legal help and guidance on which one is best for you.

Regardless of which form you choose, there are always clauses you may want to modify.  These agreements are not fixed.  Everything can be modified.  Seek an experienced construction lawyer for help and don’t ever sign anything without a careful review.

What about you?  Have you used any one of these standard forms?  Which do you favor?  Which do you avoid?  Tell me your stories.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this content, please feel free to browse my previous articles and please like, share, comment, and subscribe.  This helps promote my content and is greatly appreciated.


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