Meet the Extended Family: New AIA Contracts for Sustainable Projects

By: William E. Kelley, Jr., LEED AP BD+C

In 2011, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) released its AIA D503-2011 Guide for Sustainable Projects to assist Owners, Contractors, and Architects with drafting contracts for projects seeking some form of sustainable project goal, whether it is certification under LEED or other non-certification based sustainability goals.  The D503-2011 contains an overview of legal and practice issues that can arise on green building projects, as well as model contract language that can be added to AIA contract forms to address sustainable project goals. 

As follow-up to the D503-2011 Guide for Sustainable Projects, AIA released new contract forms in May 2012 to address these same issues.  These new contract forms include the A101-2007 SP (Owner-Architect Agreement); A201-2007 SP (General Conditions); A401-2007 SP (Contractor-Subcontractor Agreement); B101-2007 SP (Owner-Architect Agreement); C401-2007 SP (Architect-Consultant Agreement); and B214-2012 (Scope of LEED Certification Services for Architect).  All of these forms—with the exception of the B214-2012—are essentially modified versions of the already familiar 2007 AIA contract forms, with additions relating specifically to sustainable project goals. 

The new AIA contract forms contain several new defined terms that project participants will need to learn and familiarize themselves with, including, “Sustainable Objective”, “Sustainable Measure”, “Sustainability Plan”, “Sustainability Certification”, “Sustainability Documentation”, and “Certifying Authority”.  In essence, the “Sustainability Objective” is the defined sustainable goal for the project, which could include third-party certification or other sustainable goals not involving project certification or registration.  Once the “Sustainability Objective” is defined, the “Sustainable Measures” are identified, including specific design elements or construction means or methods that are necessary to achieve the “Sustainability Objective”.  The “Sustainability Plan” is the document that specifically identifies and describes the “Sustainability Objective” and that allocates roles and responsibilities for individual achievement of the “Sustainable Measures”. 

As part of the conventional family of AIA contract documents, the new sustainable project versions of the A101, A201, A401, B101, and C401 contract documents relate only to projects utilizing a design-bid-build project delivery method.  Projects utilizing other delivery methods, such as design/build, do not yet have AIA contract forms addressing these issues.  However, the model contract language outlined in the D503-2011 Guide for Sustainable Projects may be utilized for these types of projects in order to address the same type of sustainability process. 

As for the B214-2012, this document is an update from AIA’s prior LEED Certification exhibit, which was originally released as the B214-2007.  The B214-2012 document can be used as an addendum to the B101 Owner-Architect Agreement, where the Architect is also going to perform the services relating to LEED Certification.  However, the B214-2012 could also be used as the basis for a separate agreement between Owner and an independent LEED consultant for the project.  Unlike the other new sustainable contract forms, which can apply to a broad range of sustainable project goals, the B214-2012 is specifically designed for a project that is seeking certification as a LEED project.

Project participants involved in any aspect of green building or sustainability—no matter whether the projects actually seek LEED certification or not—should familiarize themselves with these new contract forms and evaluate whether these contracts are right for their particular projects.  Even if you choose not to use the new contract documents, these new forms should nonetheless serve as a good excuse to dust off your old contract forms and see whether those forms effectively address the unique aspects of projects incorporating sustainability goals.