AIA vs. ConsensusDOCS Contract Documents

Association of Construction and Development
March 8, 2013 — 2,932 views  

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) Documents and the ConsensusDOCS are two sets of contract documents that pertain to the construction industry. The ConsensusDOCS were introduced in September 2007 by a group of institutions and organizations in the construction industry. These new documents were supposed to serve as an alternative to the already existing standard American Institute of Architects documents. There are many similarities and differences in the terms detailed in these two contracts, which construction professionals should know.

Duties of a Design Professional

The duties, responsibilities, and the authority of a design professional involved in the project are defined in a similar manner in both the contract documents. Accordingly, the design professional is not in any way accountable to site inspections and construction means. Both of the contracts also limit the extent to which the design professional can get involved in the matters of waives recovery with regard to the dispute between the owner and the architect and in matters regarding contractor payment certification.

Resolution of Disputes

The AIA documents and ConsensusDOCS contract documents differ in many aspects, an important one being matters regarding the resolution of disputes. Both these documents favor a multi-step approach of problem resolution. However, they differ in the aspect regarding joinder of parties. According to the AIA contract, there is no mandatory rule that provides for the binding of the architect, owner, and contractor, into one single dispute binding resolution forum, without prior consent. However, in contrast to this, the ConsensusDOCS contract requires the mandatory joining of all the above-mentioned parties into one single dispute binding resolution forum.

This variation of policy has its own pros and cons. While the mandatory inclusion can be considered as a quick and less expensive method of dispute resolution, the inclusion of all parties can also complicate the dispute resolution process to some extent.

Method of Resolution

Both the AIA and the newly formed ConsensusDOCS contracts differ in the method they follow for dispute resolution. The AIA documents provide for the dissolution of disputes through the processes of mediation, which is followed by arbitration, and then litigation. The ConsensusDOCS, on the other hand, advises direct discussion between two parties for resolving disputes. If the dispute remains unresolved after 2 weeks of discussion, then the parties will move forward to the other means of resolution as mentioned in the contract, which involves mediation, arbitration, and litigation.

Standard of Care

The AIA and ConsensusDOCS contracts also differ in the matters of the standard of care that should be maintained by architects and engineers. While AIA documents strictly specify the terms of the standard to be followed, the ConsensusDOCS contracts do not have any such provisions. According to the latter contract, the design professionals themselves as responsible for the standards imposed on their services.

Relationship Clause

The AIA and ConsensusDOCS contracts differ in the inclusion of a relationship clause. The AIA contracts have no special provisions that define the relationship between an architect and the owner. At the same time, the ConsensusDOCS contract has a provision that requires both the engineer and the architect to accept the relationship of mutual confidence and trust. This can be considered as one of the prominent differences between these construction contract documents.

Association of Construction and Development