Everyone's heard of AIA Documents. I just saw this ad in a magazine and wondered what the buzz was all about. They are now a browser-based resource rather than a computer-based tool. So you can be anywhere when you work on their contracts and forms.
I think AIA Documents do a good job for all parties, and they have a good reputation as an industry standard. These days they are very easy to use, and the browser-based aspect is very nice. The other thing about AIA Documents is that they cover way more types of situations than you can ever do justice to - all types of construction contracts, change orders, BIM, sustainability, and on and on. There are 180 documents. Many of them would appeal to non-architect design professionals, too.
I think they are especially good for public projects. If you get into a legal shoot-out, you don't want to be 'armed' with your home made documents.
So how do you get them and how do you use them?
Back in the day, you bought them from your blueprinter or the local AIA office; then you filled them out with a typewriter. That was only slightly easier than stone tablets and chisels. Now, as I mentioned above, the AIA Documents are browser-based. In a nutshell:
The service is kind of pricey but there are buying options. And under the terms of an AIA Agreement, the cost of these forms for bidding or construction would normally be a reimbursable expense! At least with the unlimited licenses, maybe the individual document service too, you can save standard clauses for re-use. Here are the purchasing options from most to least expensive. The cost for AIA members would be less.
Annual Unlimited License for One User
The cost is $1100. You have unlimited access to all 180 documents for a year. Additional users are discounted 33% or more.
Architect Essentials Bundle
This option gives you unlimited access to 22 common documents for a year - $850. It would be rare that you need anything else. Here's the current list of documents included.
Documents On Demand Plus
This license gives you fully editable documents for one year on a document by document basis - $80 per document although some forms are only $30. Like the unlimited licenses, you can collaborate and track changes until you are ready to finalize the document, which freezes it as a locked PDF and prevents any further editing.
Documents On Demand
This is similar to the previous option, but the documents are downloaded PDFs that cannot be edited except by filling in the blanks. You also complete key information about the project before downloading the PDF. This information becomes part of the PDF and cannot be changed. These PDFs can then be printed, but not saved! Most are $30 each, some are $20 or $10 each. This service is an improvement over the previous version, which required the form to be filled out long hand or by typewriter.
I've used the Documents On Demand option in its previous version on a pro bono project (the pro bono document is free). It was a little clumsy but workable. We also subscribed to an earlier version of the service where you would buy credits that were good for a year and use them on any document that you needed. Although not browser based, it worked very well. I think the way to go is Documents On Demand Plus until you find you are spending more than the cost of one of the unlimited subscriptions. Or, you calculate that you can sell documents as a reimbursable expense for more than your subscription costs.
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