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.

Other significant changes to the A201 documents include the introduction of a time limit on filing claims, so that action must be initiated within the timeframe established by applicable law but no more than 10 years after completion of substantial work on a project. Also, the mutual consequential damages waiver, added in the 1997 revision and intended to prevent runaway claims, was retained but with the elimination of a confusing word in the section that covers the preclusion of awarding liquidated damages.

The AIA is also releasing a new owner-architect agreement called B101, which will replace the old B141 and B151 agreements. The new document lays out the architect’s “basic” services during phase fives: schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding/negotiation, and construction contract administration. It defines “additional” services as those not listed as basic. In keeping with its embrace of sustainability, the AIA has added a new proviso that requires architects to discuss with owners the feasibility of incorporating green design approaches as part of their basic services during schematic design.

For more information about the A201-2007 and B101 documents, visit the AIA’s Web site, Additionally, look for further coverage on