The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is set to release revisions to its A201 contract documents today. These forms, the most widely used in the construction industry, define the legal relationship between building owners, architects, and contractors; the AIA first prepared them in 1887 and issues updates once a decade. The AIA is also releasing a new owner-architect agreement.
Chief among revisions to the A201 documents is the removal of mandatory arbitration, which has been specified since the AIA’s first owner-contractor agreement in 1888. Arbitration must now be selected, with mediation as the first option and litigation as the default option. Another significant revision addresses the architect’s role as the initial decision maker (IDM) when disputes occur between owners and contractors. In the 1997 A201 update, the architect was defined as the IDM with final and binding authority, provided that a request for arbitration was not filed within 30 days of the decision. The AIA has since redefined the architect as the default IDM able to provide initial decisions, with these claims defined as a precedent to mediation.