The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently released seven updated documents in its design-build family.  According to AIA, the 2014 Design-Build documents enhance the early interaction between the Owner and the Design-Builder, calling for clearly defined and mandated Owner’s Criteria for the Project and requiring submission of a Preliminary Design by the Design-Builder.


AIA Documents Overview. An AIA press release highlights the array of how AIA agreements seek to accommodate the various ways in which design build projects are delivered. The key document is, of course, the agreement between the Owner and the Design-Builder. In addition there are agreements for use between the Design-Builder and Architect, as well as between the Design-Builder and Contractor. There are also agreements for use between the Architect and consultants, and between the Contractor and subcontractors. If the Owner desires independent consulting services with respect to the Project design and/or construction, there is also an agreement for use between the Owner and that independent consultant. To help understand these design-build project variations, and the related contracts, the AIA Contract Documents team created a free Design-Build Relationship Diagrams (pdf).

Additional Changes.  Other changes include updated insurance provisions that are consistent with current industry terminology and practices, and a Sustainable Project exhibit, which can be used if the Owner has identified a Sustainable Objective as part of the Owner’s Criteria. The Sustainable Project exhibit is derived from the most recent AIA Sustainable Project Documents and describes the process by which the Owner and Design-Builder will work to achieve the Sustainable Objective.

Best Practices.  When I asked a representative of AIA about some of the best practices resulting from the new documents, it was all about clarifying the parties’ expectations throughout the process.  Michael Bomba, Associate Counsel at AIA, provided the following statement:

Clarity regarding the parties’ obligations is of the utmost importance in any agreement. The AIA’s updated design-build documents include an enhanced description of the Design-Builder’s design process, thereby clearly aligning the parties’ expectations regarding the design process and related deliverables. Further, through the use of a new Sustainable Projects exhibit derived from the AIA’s Sustainable Projects Documents, the updated design-build documents provide a contractual mechanism to identify the Owner’s sustainable objective for the project, if any, and define the parties’ respective obligations for achieving the objective.

According to Bomba, the design-build documents “clearly establish the Owner’s requirements for the project and do not allow the design-builder to deviate from those requirements without the Owner’s written consent.”

Practice Point.  Of course, any form document will give you a good starting point. But the best practice is to tailor your documents to fit your particular need.  For example, the 2014 Exhibit A is an insurance and bonds exhibit.  Unlike the 2004 version (which was Exhibit C), Exhibit A insurance provisions are not potentially duplicative of insurance requirements already provided in the General Conditions. Many practitioners never used Exhibit C of the 2004 version, and instead inserted limits in Section 11 of the 2004 Exhibit A General Conditions. The 2014 Exhibit A provides blanks to fill in for the insurance limits, as well as the traditional text.  Practitioners will likely beef up these terms and conditions to suit their needs.

For additional analysis of the 2014 documents, please see my partner, Anne Gorham‘s article, New 2014 AIA A141 Design Build Documents: Throw-Back or All New?