ConsensusDOCS …

When confronted with the decision to enter into a contract using the AIA documents versus the AGC’s to get a building built, the most important factor to understand is the history that has guided and influenced the provisions in the AIA Contract Documents. The AIA Contract Documents and their provisions have been interpreted by courts of law for over 100 years and each and every word is included for sound, legal reasons. Deviating from the industry standard by using ConsensusDOCS opens up potentially perilous unknowns to all stakeholders, not just architects.

Building owners embarking on construction should be particularly attentive to any proposals to contract with ConsensusDOCS. Simply put, ConsensusDOCS are not owner-friendly and neglect to include key provisions found in AIA Contract Documents that give owners critical professional guidance to manage construction-phase issues.

ConsensusDOCS severely limit the role of the architect, relegating architects to mere artists, wrongly assuming their role is largely complete once a building has been designed. If that were the case, the foundation that supports public policies that regulate the practice of architecture across the country would be called into question. How could architects be held accountable for public safety if architects simply prepare drawings without observing the realities of their construction? How can owners be assured that the drawings are being built in accordance with the design intent? Construction drawings are the instructions for contractors, not merely a series of illustrations of the building. But unlike the instructions for operating a home appliance, buildings are a complicated overlay of systems and materials. Instructions in this context demand professional guidance and many building owners do not have the experience and skill-set to navigate such a complicated process which also inevitably triggers change orders and the need to identify on-site deficiencies or defects in construction.

The bottom line is this: construction is complicated and inevitably results in surprises along the way. Architects are licensed professionals who are trained not only to design buildings but to observe the process of construction to ensure that the designed building gets built in accordance with the plans and specifications. So, when architects are faced with the decision to use AIA Contract Documents versus ConsensusDOCS, the simple question is this: did you become a licensed architect to design “theoretical” buildings for art sake or did you become a licensed architect to design buildings that get built and are occupied? The answer is clear and so should be your choice of contracts.

This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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