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AIA documents to reduce owner/architect litigation.

An expanded "owner-architect agreement" form just issued by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a major step toward reducing costly disputes within the real estate industry, according to Michael S. Zetlin, a partner in the law firm of Zetlin & De Chiara.

The new document, designated B163, provides for nine categories of services commonly rendered by architects, and exhaustively delineates the services within each category. It replaces B 161/162, which broke out only three categories.

"B163 helps all parties understand from the outset exactly what tasks the design professional will perform and what the owner or developer will be paying for," Zetlin said. "It may seem surprising, but that kind of understanding often has been lacking in recent years because the architect's role has expanded into so many new areas.

"The resulting ambiguities often have led to bad feelings and strained relationships and, at times, to legal disputes that waste money and energy in court or arbitration proceedings," the attorney added.

Zetlin, whose firm devotes its practice to the construction and real estate industries and the design professions, observes, for example, that architects increasingly are incorporating construction management (CM) functions into their scope of services. In fact, in May, the AIA published its first standardized document for agreements in which an architect provides CM services as an advisor to the owner.

"That's an important illustration of how relationships are changing and why confusion and disputes have become more common today," he said.

The AIA has called B163 a "significant evolutionary step in defining - and more precisely documenting - the scope of architects' services and compensation."

In an announcement, the institute said its new document enables architects to lay out all prospective services "in a format that works like an a la carte menu...allowing for a precise selection among a wide range of options." The anticipated results, says the AIA, are "realistic expectations and fewer surprises."

Zetlin notes that use of B163 is not mandatory, but predicts that owners and developers will be encountering it soon because "architects are likely to embrace it enthusiastically."
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Title Annotation:American Institute of Architects offers new form delineating owner-architect agreement for services rendered
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Aug 25, 1993
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