Roughly every 10 years, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) updates its construction contract documents, which are among the most widely used and accepted forms in the construction industry, to reflect legal and business changes and trends identified by AIA. In 2017, AIA updated some of its core documents, including the A102 (Standard Form Agreement Between Owner and Contractor), A201 (General Conditions of the Contract for Construction), and B101 (Standard Form Agreement Between Owner and Architect), among others. Because of the widespread use of these forms on construction projects, it is important for industry professionals to be aware of the 2017 revisions to allow for efficient review and finalization of contract documents without running the risk of overlooking a critical change. This alert focuses on a few such changes in the A201, the General Conditions to an entire family of AIA documents. Please note, however, the list of changes to the A201 identified below is not exhaustive.
A201, §§ 1.6.1 and 1.6.2
Section 1.6.1 states explicitly that wherever the contract documents require one party to provide notice to the other party, such notice must be in writing to the designated representative of the party receiving notice. Section 1.6.2 further requires that notice of claims must be delivered by certified or registered mail.
A201, § 3.3.1
Section 3.3.1 pertains to supervision and direction of the work on the project and provides that the contractor is solely responsible for means and methods. The previous version of Section 3.3.1 provided a limited exception to the rule that means and methods are the contractor’s sole responsibility where “the Contract Documents give other specific instructions concerning these matters.” That exception was deleted in the 2017 version, and now the contractor must propose alternatives if it determines that means and methods specified in the contract documents are unsafe.
A201, § 3.5.2
Section 3.5.2 provides that “all material, equipment or other special warranties required by the Contract Documents shall be issued in the name of the Owner, or shall be transferable to the Owner.” While the concept of transferring warranties to the owner is not a novel one, contractors must now ensure that all warranties issued for the project satisfy the requirements of this section.
A201, § 3.7.4
Section 3.7.4 was revised to reduce the period for providing notice of potentially compensable concealed or unknown conditions from 21 to 14 days.
A201, § 3.10.1
Section 3.10.1 was revised to provide more specific requirements relating to the level of detail and specific information that must be included in the project schedule. Interestingly, however, Section 3.10.1 still does not require the use of a critical path method schedule to be updated on a regular basis.
A201, § 7.4
Section 7.4, relating to minor changes in the work ordered by the architect, now provides that if the contractor believes a minor change ordered by the architect will affect the contract sum or time, then the contractor must notify the architect and shall not proceed with the work until the issue is resolved. Proceeding with the work without providing advance notice to the architect constitutes a waiver of the contractor’s right to seek a change order at a later date.
A201, § 8.3.1
Section 8.3.1 now provides explicitly that a contractor is entitled to an extension of the contract time for properly documented adverse weather conditions.
A201, § 14.1.3
Section 14.1.3 now provides for recovery of “overhead and profit on Work not executed” if the contractor terminates the contract on account of default by the owner.
A201, § 14.4.3
Section 14.4.3 was modified to provide for recovery of a “termination fee” agreed to by the parties and payable to the contractor if the owner terminates the contract for convenience. This section was further modified to clarify that “costs incurred by reason of the termination” include “costs attributable to termination of Subcontracts.”
As noted above, there are additional changes to the 2017 versions of the A201 and other AIA contract documents that are too voluminous to list here. As with previous versions of the AIA documents, the 2017 forms are meant to enable contracting parties to participate in a productive “give and take” in negotiating construction contracts for their projects, utilizing terms and practices that are commonplace in the industry. Even with the changes that have been made to the current versions of the documents, the AIA documents still require editing and customization to allow project participants to develop forms that meet the goals and needs of each of their projects.