News Brief

New AIA Contracts Reinforce Sustainability Plans

New to creating a sustainability plan for an AIA agreement? Latest guidance references COTE TOP Ten metrics, ASHRAE 209, among others.

 A flow diagram showing contract documents below the owner, architect, contractor, and sustainability consultant.

This diagram shows the various AIA agreements in a design-bid-build project where a Sustainable Projects Exhibit is used (here the E204). Each party has the exhibit attached to their contract, and the sustainability consultant is brought in through the new scope of services agreement (C204). 

Image: American Institute of Architects
The American Institute of Architects (AIA), drafter of the most widely used design contracts, recently updated its Guide for Sustainable Projects (D503) and added a new contract for sustainability consultants working on conventional builds: Sustainability Consultant Scope of Services (C204). Together, these updates ensure that: any project (conventional, design-build, integrated project delivery) can attach a sustainability exhibit to the contract,  all parties see the same exhibit, and roles and responsibilities for sustainability are not duplicated.

Previously, the Guide for Sustainable Projects contained model language designed to be pulled into other contracts. But the provisions still needed to be modified based on whether the project was a typical design-bid-build or alternative delivery model and coordinated with any sustainability provisions already in the base agreement. Now, there’s a consolidated Sustainable Projects Exhibit for each kind of delivery model (A141-2014 Exhibit C, E204-2017, E234-2019, and E235-2019, respectively) and each requires the creation of a “sustainability plan.” As a result, the Guide for Sustainable Projects’ main purpose has become describing various approaches to sustainability and demonstrating how these approaches might translate into a sustainability plan for the Sustainable Project Exhibit.

The Guide for Sustainable Projects begins by highlighting the Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Measures (now dubbed the Framework for Design Excellence by AIA) and provides high-level overviews of concepts like material transparency and resilience. Then it lists many of the major rating and certification systems and jurisdictional requirements that a sustainable project might be engaging with, including ASHRAE Standard 209 for whole-building energy simulations. Sample sustainability plans are provided for LEED, WELL, and the International Green Construction Code.

If most of the responsibilities for sustainability have been designated to a consultant, that’s where the new Sustainability Consultant Scope of Services comes in handy. For design-bid-build projects where the owner has executed a Sustainable Project Exhibit with the architect and the architect in turn hires a sustainability consultant, this agreement defines the consultant’s scope and relieves the architect of certain responsibilities. For example, the consultant takes over developing the sustainability plan, reviewing submittals for compliance with a sustainability certification, and paying the certification fees.

AIA’s efforts to streamline contracting for sustainable projects and make these provisions available across all project types follows on the heels of the “Big Move” announced in 2019. 

Published July 7, 2020

Pearson, C. (2020, June 19). New AIA Contracts Reinforce Sustainability Plans . Retrieved from

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