Architecture contracts detail agreements between architects and their clients. They document the terms and conditions of the project, determine each party's rights and responsibilities, set a timetable, and establish compensation.

Steps Toward an Architecture Contract

The following steps are involved in the preparation of the architecture contract:

  1. Letter of Proposal.  This follows the initial meeting and identifies both parties, the project location, a brief project description, the basic scope of services rendered, and compensation. This is neither an agreement nor a proposed design.
  2. Letter of Intent.  Basically a written handshake, the Letter of Intent is signed by the architect, but no written response from the owner is required.
  3. Letter of Agreement. More detailed than the Letter of Intent, the Letter of Agreement is a short document detailing the proposed services and their terms and conditions. It is prepared by the architect and signed by both parties involved. This does not offer much protection, especially when compared to a formal contract.
  4. Architect-Prepared Contract. A custom-built contract prepared by the architect, reviewed by an attorney, and signed by both parties involved. This is typically reader-friendly and results in a fast turnaround time.
  5. American Institute of Architects Contract Documents. These are the industry standard, and current AIA guidelines are the 2007 edition of Standard Documents of the American Institute of Architects. The formality of the complex language may result in the owner wanting an attorney's review, which can slow down the project. It is also more expensive than an architect-prepared contract as special software is required to prepare and edit the documents.

Role of the Contract

An architecture contract establishes a system of consistent observation of all project-related activities. It promises the architect will follow the owner's principles, requirements, and standards for the project. It identifies risks and addresses how they will be dealt with. The contract gives a system of accountability.

Traditionally, an architecture contract has been between the project owner and the architect. However, a growing number of services are provided by subcontractors. This results in a need not only for a contract, but also a wide-ranging contract with all parties involved.

When Is the Contract Signed?

The contract may be signed at any of the following times:

  • Upon receipt of the Statement of Work, which is created in Phase A of Part II: Architecture Development Method (ADM).
  • Upon a domain being subcontracted.
  • At the beginning of Phase G, also called the implementation governance phase.
  • At the end of Phase G.

What Is In the Contract?

There are three types of architecture contracts: the Statement of Architecture Work, the Contract Between Architecture Design and Development Partners, and the Contract Between Architecting Function and Business Users.

A Statement of Architecture Work is delivered in Phase A. Typical contents include a title, details about the project background, description of the project, vision of the architect, managerial approach, protocol for change of project scope, deliverables and responsibilities, criteria and protocol for acceptance, project timetable, support of the Enterprise Continuum, and signatures.

A Contract Between Architecture Design and Development Partners is signed by everyone involved in the project. It typically includes an introduction, project background, the agreement's nature, project scope, binding requirements, development processes, management roles, target measures, set deliverables phases, joint work plan, timeframe, and architecture metrics. This is typically drafted in the ADM's Preliminary Phase, and signed during the ADM, depending on which work is being subcontracted.

A Contract Between Architecting Function and Business Users is a written statement of intent to comply with enterprise architecture. Typical contents are introduction, background, the agreement's nature and range, strategic requirements, required deliverables, conformance requirements, methods of architecture, timeframe, business metrics, and service architecture in accordance with the Service Level Agreement.

Terms to Include

The contract is often a method of driving change. Terms to include are:

  • Owner right to join the architect and contractor for arbitration and mediation.
  • The architect's deadlines for producing documents.
  • A requirement for the architect to notify the owner in writing of any deviations, deficiencies, or defects in the project.
  • Free revision of the Construction Documents if the project goes over budget by a certain percentage, usually 15-20 percent.
  • Owner right to approve subcontractors.
  • Architect liability for additional costs caused by conflicts, mistakes, or omissions in the Construction Documents.
  • Architect agreement that all designs are exclusive to this project.
  • One-year warranty for construction administration.
  • Weekly updates of project records.
  • Standard of good faith, mutual trust, and fair dealing.
  • Owner right to terminate the project.

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