AIA Document B101-2017: Business Considerations for Owners and Architects

The AIA’s “new” B101-2017, the latest version of its flagship Owner-Architect Agreement, carries over concepts from its widely-used predecessor, B101-2007. Users of the 2007 form will find the 2017 revision familiar. But the new B101-2017 is different in important and subtle ways, and some of its changes may be controversial. Architect and Owner users of the B101 form may, therefore, wish to reconsider and refresh their contracting strategy for the next decade.

Biggest Change: Mandatory Digital Practice Document Use

The B101-2017 and other 2017 AIA B101 Contract Documents require use of the AIA’s 2013 Digital Practice Documents (unless that requirement is deleted from the forms). Yet, many Architects and Owners are unfamiliar with the three primary Digital Practice Documents. Two of the three apply even if Building Information Modeling (BIM) is not used on the project:

E203–2013, BIM / Digital Data Exhibit: This exhibit must be incorporated into the contracts of nearly all project participants, including the Owner-Architect Agreement.

G201–2013, Project Digital Data Protocol Form: This protocol form takes legal effect through the E203 and sets rules for Digital Data use, even on non-BIM projects.

G202–2013, Project BIM Protocol Form: This BIM-specific protocol is used with E203 and G201 on BIM projects. It requires considerable “buy in” from Architects.

This change has sweeping legal and business considerations for Owners who choose to not delete the requirement to use the Digital Practice Documents from their Architect and Contractor agreements.

The AIA’s owners architect agreement B101 and Digital Practice Documents impose substantial additional “default” obligations on Architects, Owners, and Contractors. However, if used correctly, the Digital Practice Documents can lend considerable value to projects. They provide the “rules of the road” for project use of Digital Data, and legal safe harbors for parties who comply with mutually-agreed protocols for its use. They fill in an important gap that developed in design and construction contracts when the “paper era” ended. But the documents are involved and complex, and should not be used lightly by Owners – or Architects and Contractors – who have not taken the time to understand what they require.

Appropriately Pricing Architectural Services

The “new” B101-2017 document family requires more of Architects than their now-obsolete 2007 predecessors. E204-2017, the Sustainable Projects Exhibit, which the new B101 requires on Sustainable Objective projects, imposes new obligations on Architect (and Owners and Contractors). Also, the B101-2017 introduces the new concept of “Supplemental Services” to the familiar “Basic Services” and “Additional Services” concepts – a change which affects an Architect’s entitlement to fees. The Digital Practice Documents also impose new tasks on Architects. Several other changes may also prompt Architects to reconsider how they price their services. These changes should also prompt Owners to reconsider what services they should pay Architects to perform.

Changes in the New B101-2017

The B101-2017 differs from its predecessor 2007 version regarding:

      • Architect’s License
      • Initial Information
      • Design Milestones
      • Owner’s Budget
      • Architect’s Insurance
      • Performance Criteria
      • Procurement Phase
      • Sustainable Objectives
  • Means and Methods
  • Evaluation of the Work
  • Certificates for Payment
  • Agreement Termination
  • Intellectual Property
  • Supplemental Services
  • Term of Agreement
  • Communications
  • Contractor-Hired A/Es
  • Reliance on Owner-Provided Information
  • Non-Conforming Work
  • Confidentiality
  • Digital Data Use
  • Licensing Fee
  • BIM Protocols

Owner and Architect users of the B101 contract form should familiarize themselves with these changes.

Just a Starting Point…

Like all form contracts, the standard B101-2017 text can be edited to suit individual needs. No two projects are alike – there is no “one-size-fits-all” contract form. But Architects and Owners may wish to consider revisions and additions to the B101-2017 about issues including:

      • Liability Limitation
      • Standard of Care
      • Warranty Issues
      • Betterment
      • Fast Track Services
      • Invoicing/Payment
      • Force Majeure
      • Code Compliance
  • Accessibility: ADA/FHA
  • Job Site Safety
  • Contractor Duties
  • Insurance
  • Third-Party Beneficiary
  • Indemnity
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Credit and Publicity
  • Design Coordination
  • Design-Build MEP/FP
  • Tenant Construction
  • Hidden Conditions
  • Value Engineering
  • Submittal Review
  • Product Suitability
  • Dispute Resolution
Key Takeaway

The AIA Contract Documents’ B101-2017 differs from its 2007 predecessor. Of particular significance is the B101-2017’s mandatory use of the Digital Practice Documents. They create a new paradigm of opportunity and risk for Architects. In 2018, the AIA’s familiar 2007 Contract Documents were phased out. The industry was forced to start using the 2017 forms. Understanding how they differ is key. 

On our website, you will find a complete downloadable article comparing the new B101-2017, Agreement Between Owner and Architect, and its predecessor, the B101-2007:  It concludes that the new B101, while different, is an improvement in many ways. Owner and Architect B101 users may therefore wish to reconsider and refresh their contracting strategy for the next decade.

B101-2017, Owner Architect Agreement

Owner-Architect Agreements Don’t Have To Be a Hassle!


This publication is prepared for the general information of friends of Baker Law Group LLC in Illinois. It is not legal advice for you, or legal advice regarding any specific matter. Jeremy S. Baker is licensed to practice law only in Illinois. Under rules applicable to the professional conduct of attorneys in various jurisdictions, it may be considered attorney advertising material. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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Jeremy S. Baker is an experienced Chicago-based attorney who provides transactional, dispute resolution, and general counsel services to the design and construction industry. He uses creative project structuring and intelligent contracts, plus dispute avoidance and early cost-efficient claim resolution techniques, to help his clients complete challenging projects.

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