The standard contract forms published by the American Institute of Architects have gained widespread use and acceptance largely because they are perceived to be reasonably balanced in the allocation of risk and responsibility. Despite some grumbling about architect protections, the documents attempt to be fair to all parties.
A recent court opinion interpreting one AIA contract form casts things in a different light. The document is the “Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Construction Manager where the Construction Manager is also the Constructor.” The form incorporates by reference the AIA Document A201 general conditions, while stating that it supersedes any inconsistent provisions in A201. It then states that references to the word “architect” refer to the construction manager.
The effective result is to assign all architectural responsibilities under Document A201 to the construction manager. A Texas court recently ruled that this may have rendered the construction manager/constructor liable for inadequate soil conditions at the project owner’s site.
This interpretation of the contract form appears accurate. It raises a question: Is this not a departure from the AIA’s tradition of fair allocation of risk and balanced treatment of the parties? As always, I invite your comments.
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