Why should you go through the time, effort, and expense of crafting and signing an agreement with your architectural clients? The easiest answer to this is that an agreement between an architect and their client can eliminate a large amount of heartache and hassle. These agreements should form the basis of every business relationship you have.
A good formal agreement-or contract- between an architect and a client helps keep the business relationship cordial and beneficial to all parties involved. The contract eliminates most possibilities for surprise during or at the termination of the project. Your client won’t be able to say: “Hey, I was expecting something different.” Additionally you won’t be able to say: “Well, this is what I understood that you wanted.” This keeps the relationship amicable and allows it to grow and flourish.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a default, or template, contract, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has, for more than 100 years, made several basic contract/agreement templates available to member architects. Over the years these contracts have become longer and longer, and the amount of legalese they contain has grown. These trends reflect the fact that our society is very litigious (we like to take people to court) and the fact that projects have become more and more complicated over time. There is also the fact that more and more statutes and codes have had to be accounted for as well. In an ideal world, the phrase: “A man is only as good as his word” would always apply, and a handshake would be enough to constitute and consummate an agreement.
So, what should an architectural agreement consist of? First and foremost, an effective architectural agreement will clearly and completely state what is required/desired by the client and what the architect will deliver. Is the architect solely responsible for design and engineering verification of the building? How long does the architect have to complete the design? These are examples of what should be spelled out in this section. Does the architect remain throughout the project duration, or are they dismissed once the designs are completed and accepted?
Next, the rights and responsibilities of both parties will be clearly spelled out. Is the architect responsible for contracting with the builder(s) or will the client do that? Who is required to pull permits and schedule inspections? What rights do both parties have in case of dispute?
Hopefully, with a contract that identifies and deals with these questions, and more, both parties can work through the project amicably and won’t even have to refer back to the contract. But, if problems or difficulties do arise, the contract is always there to help guide the parties through and get the project back on track.



Turning now to the more important changes in the agreement between the architect and owner, and leaving aside (until part two of this discussion) the architect as contract administrator in the B201 document, the major changes are associated with:
Architect standard of care Architect insurance requirements Environmentally responsible design Copyright and licensing the architect’s plans as instruments of service Dispute resolution direction change Given space limitations, I will discuss the standard of care, insurance and environmental design issues.
The 2007 version associated with the architect’s standard of care in Section 2.2 now limits the standard to skill and care ordinarily provided by architects practicing in the same or similar locality or same or similar circumstances. The locality and/or circumstance limitations were not in the 1997 edition. From a legal risk standpoint, the architect should consider use of this provision from the later edition, since the prior 1997 edition had possibly a broader standard or reference area when considering what the appropriate standard of care to a particular dispute should be.
Section 2.5 in the 2007 edition contains a requirement that the architect shall maintain insurance as identified in the agreement. The 1997 edition did not have such a requirement. Architects probably would like to be free from this requirement.
Comparing these two concepts illustrates decision points for the architect owner. Balancing the risks involved, what is more important, a broader standard of care but no requirement to buy insurance, or a narrower standard of care but a requirement to buy insurance. Obviously, another approach is to use one of the editions and revise it according to the architect owner’s own preference.
The provisions in 3251 of the 2007 edition appear to correspond to requests in the construction industry that architects as professionals be up to date on environmental issues as such issues are now becoming more politically important in the construction industry. The 1997 edition did not contain a similar provision. On this issue, the 1997 edition merely requires the architect to be aware of, and in connection with its design, comply with all laws, codes, and requirements imposed by governmental authorities, a much broader and more vague standard as it relates to designs dealing with environmental issues than what is contained in the 2007 edition.
In the 2007 edition, and with regard to dispute resolution, mediation is a condition precedent to any form of binding dispute resolution, but binding arbitration is not mandatory for disputes that fail to settle in mediation. This provision gives the parties more flexibility because it allows a party to select the form of dispute resolution, but it does require mediation. In the author’s opinion, this is a good added provision. However, a requirement for mediation could easily be added to the 1997 edition.
In the 2007 edition, there is a new provision related to the owner’s use of the architect’s drawings under what is called a license arrangement that did not appear in the 1997 edition. These provisions in the 2007 edition further protect the architect’s copyright interest.


Normally, when someone wants to prove in court that there is a construction defect in their home or commercial property, they’re going to need the services of either a forensic expert or a qualified professional on the standards, practices, and codes of the design and construction industry. While there may be exceptions where the opinion of a non-expert is sufficient to prove defects, they are rare.
However, the testimony of a non-expert, such as a homeowner, is still evidence of the existence of a construction defect, particularly where physical damage to property is readily apparent. For instance, a building owner or occupant may take pictures of and attest to the appearance of a leak near a door or window-such as on the wallboard around the window or near the threshold of a door- as evidence that there is a leak. Likewise, water spots appearing on the ceiling or running down the walls of the building may be evidence that the roof is leaking and defective. Cracks, plywood delamination, and wood bowing are other easy to spot signs that a non-expert could testify to in court.
Realistically, such non-expert testimony, although helpful, will almost never satisfy the legal requirements of proof necessary to prevail on a construction defect claim in court. Therefore, in order to prove a construction defect, a construction expert must be retained. Typically, the following steps are involved:
Something happens that causes the owner or occupant to suspect a problem. The owner notices damage which causes a professional to be brought it in for an inspection. The inspector comes to a determination whether the issue is the result of a construction defect or not.