Industry Forms: Is consensus really an advantage?

11/12/2010

Many projects utilize industry forms such as the AIA or ConsensusDocs family of documents. The AIA family has, particularly, been an accepted “standard” in the industry for many years, and the Consensus have developed more recently as another series of alternative documents.

The clear advantages of these documents are their consensus; however, that conversely is their detriment. Contracting is all about risk allocation. Consensus tends to equate that risk, but not always equally; rather, the more prominent player in the consensus effort tends to maintain greatest advantage (much like in politics). For example, in the AIA (American Institute of Architects) series, the most protected party is – don’t be surprised here – the architects.

Each job and each contract have their own individual characteristics, important issues, needs, lack of needs, etc.; therefore, to rely upon any form as one-size-fits all should be looked at very, very carefully, and strong consideration given to individualized contracts to fit one’s specific needs and interests. There’s an old proverb I think equally applicable to industry forms that goes something like this: A camel is a horse designed by committee.

But, of course, camels too serve their purposes, so the question is do you need a camel for your purposes or do you really need a horse? The answer governs whether such industry forms are suitable for your particular need.

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