The AIA revises its series of contracts on a 10-year cycle in years ending with a seven—which means this is the big year. The 2007 updated contract documents are now available and reflect the changing status of architects within the construction industry. Most revisions to the 40 documents can be considered nips and tucks, but a few—to the A201 General Conditions of the Contract for Construction—might be characterized as reconstructive surgery.

Until this year, the AIA has required arbitration for dispute resolution. A new checklist allows the parties to choose their own preferred method, which includes arbitration as an option, but the default procedure is now litigation.

The architect has long been designated the neutral party for deciding disputes between the owner and the contractor. However, new language allows the owner and the contractor to hire a third party—dubbed the IDM (initial decision maker)—to serve in this role. The change reflects the growing use of outside consultants, often employed by the owner, within complex construction projects. If an IDM is not identified within the contract, the role still reverts to the architect.

The new and revised 2007 documents were released less than six weeks after the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) issued its own brand-new series of contracts, called ConsensusDOCS. These 70 documents supersede the AGC's previous document program, established during the 1970s as competition for the AIA brand. AGC is actively promoting the new documents as “reflecting a consensus for best practice,” and for the first time in more than 50 years, it voted unanimously not to endorse the AIA's new version of A201.