REALWorld Law


Industry forms of agreement

Do any industry bodies, organizations or associations produce standard form contracts for use within the construction and engineering sectors? Are any international forms of contract ever used? How is the form of construction contract to be used selected?

United States

United States

The form of construction contract to use for a specific project can be selected in a multitude of ways. An architect, engineer, or contractor preparing a proposal for an owner may present the owner with a form document to consider. In those cases, the owner then may ask its lawyer to review and revise the document as appropriate. A proactive owner, however, may prepare a form of contract, preferably before the owner seeks bids, and then include that contract with a request for proposals. Owners that construct projects regularly may have their own original manuscript forms of contract, rather than relying on published forms.

Standard forms of contract are published and sold in the US by organizations associated with the construction industry. Among the most popular are the following:


AIA documents are by the American Institute of Architects. The AIA forms of agreement are the most widely used and the most heavily critiqued in the United States. Prepared by a professional association for architects, some perceive that the AIA forms allocate risk in favour of the architect and to the detriment of the owner. As a result, the AIA forms are generally modified by the parties before execution. The AIA provides a multitude of form contracts, however, they are most often used for general building and not heavy construction.


EJCDC documents are by a group comprised of the American Council of Engineering Companies, the National Society of Professional Engineers/Professional Engineers in Private Practice, and the American Society of Civil Engineers-Construction Institute. The EJCDC documents are most often used by construction projects driven by professional engineering, frequently called ‘horizontal’ projects.


ConsensusDOCS were created by a group comprised principally of general contractors and subcontractor groups, although they have been endorsed by some other groups. The ConsensusDOCS appeared in 2007 and purport to represent a consensus by all of the parties to a construction project, including those concerned with the allocation of risk in the AIA documents. ConsensusDOCS promote themselves as the successor to the Associated General Contractors of America documents.


FIDIC document are by the Fédération Internationale Des Ingénieurs-Conseils. Although well-known internationally, FIDIC forms of contract are rarely used in the United States.