The AIA, Paperwork, and Me

AIA is the acronym for American Institute of Architects, a controlled organization that has been the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners since 1857. Although based in Washington, D.C., the AIA consists of components (or “chapters” as most of us would call them). These chapters are arranged by state, some states having more chapters than others. For instance, my home state is Minnesota. We have 4 AIA chapters here: AIA Minnesota, AIA Minneapolis, AIA St Paul, and AIA Northern Minnesota. There are over 300 active AIA chapters as of today, with more than 75,000 members.

The AIA started with 13 men gathering in one small office in 1857. Mr. Richard Upjohn was the leader and it was in his office these first few meetings were held. “The group sought to create an architecture organization that would “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members” and “elevate the standing of the profession.” ” This was one large mission to take on for only 13 gentlemen, but, nonetheless, they wanted to make architecture professional and streamlined for all persons in America.

Richard Upjohn

After their first meeting, the 13 fellows decided to invite 16 more self-proclaimed architects to join them in their meetings. I emphasize the “self-proclaimed” portion of architects, since back in these days, there was no such thing as architecture school or certifications or licenses. In fact, if you wanted to be an architect, you just said that’s what you were. No questions, no proof needed! This is rather scary when you think about it, actually. In the 1800’s, prior to the beginning of the AIA, the blacksmith and bricklayer could have been the “town architects”. Could you imagine if we had people designing buildings without certifications today? We’d see some large liability cases, I’m sure.

Over the next few years, bylaws were drafted, signed, and the AIA incorporated in the state of New York. By the mid-1860’s, members were joining all across America. Then in 1884, a rivalry organization was formed in Chicago called the Western Association of Architects (WAA). As this new organization started to grow, it was quite apparent that the AIA and the WAA were almost identical—even some of their members were the same. In 1888, both organizations merged together, keeping the American Institute of Architects as their name. In 1889, the AIA gained its first female member, Miss Louise Bethune.

Louise Bethune

Although the AIA was formed to enhance the profession of Architecture, one of the other main goals was to make standardized documentation for construction projects. The first document was created in 1888. It was the A-201 form, the architect and owner agreement for construction. Over the course of the decades, the AIA has now published many sets of specialized forms. Here’s a brief list of the forms used in today’s construction industry.

  • A-Series Owner/Contractor Agreements
  • B-Series Owner/Architect Agreements
  • C-Series Other Agreements
  • D-Series Miscellaneous Documents
  • E-Series Digital Practice Documents
  • G-Series Contract Administration and Project Management Forms

Over the years, these forms have received copyrights and cannot be replicated. This makes a monopoly for the AIA, since most commercial construction jobs REQUIRE the use of the above documents. You can purchase these original forms online from your local chapter, download templates or create the fillable PDFs. Many of the forms require Public Notary stamps and signatures, in order to make them legal and binding between the parties.

In today’s construction industry, if you have NOT seen these forms, you’re the odd man (or woman) out. The amount of time and work it requires for staff to complete some of these forms is unbelievable. The detail and accuracy is imperative, and if not completed correctly, your forms can be rejected. This means you need to make some adjustments and resubmit. The most popular of these document series, is probably the G-series, the G-702 & G-703 forms to be more precise. These forms have not been updated by the AIA since 1992, but I have included a sample below.

The G702 & G703 forms are a type of consolidated billing on a monthly basis based on the contract completion percentage. This is a type of accounting called the Percentage of Completion. According to CPA William Brighenti,“the percentage-of-completion method is generally the required method of financial and tax accounting of larger construction companies for long-term contracts. Its justification relies largely on the matching principle in accounting, where revenues and expenses are matched in the applicable accounting period.”

So, why the rant and boring blog on the AIA? Well, I was once the ‘office personnel’ that had to prepare these little beasts. From about the 15th to the 24th of every month, it was highly known to avoid my office at all costs. The first couple of years, I thought it was just me…..but as I’ve maneuvered through the Door and Hardware Industry, I’ve learned that nearly all office accountants in this trade feel the same pains as I once did. Basically, you save all invoices for the month and compile them into this one “summarized” billing on the G702&G703 forms. Once you have these forms completed, you send them to the contractor, and in some cases, to the owner, architect, and job supervisors as well. Each contractor and each project set the “rules” for billings. They all want originals and they want them on their desk no later than their contract billing date. Some contracts bill the 15th of the month, others the 20th, 23rd, or 25th. It used to be streamlined about 6 years ago, where nearly everyone wanted these billings on the 25th, but now-a-days, contractors have adjusted their billing schedules- and some have even created their own custom billing forms to avoid the headaches of using the AIA’s.

As I roll to conclusion, the final question many of you wonder: Is the AIA stringent paperwork requirements going to ease up anytime soon? From how I see it, absolutely NOT! I say this in full confidence as it seems that the paperwork requirements are just getting worse. Each year more and more documents are needing to be drafted, reviewed, and signed. Each state also gets to throw in their own regulatory guidelines for construction projects, as well as those general contractors (GC) we all love so much. I’ve noticed that the larger a GC is, the more paperwork they want. So, do you distributors get to increase you pricing for the job to accommodate these extra man hours needed? Again, absolutely NOT. In fact, you are expected to become even more competitive in your pricing due to the lucrative industry and ease of internet bidding. No wonder why many “little guys” closed their doors years ago.

Keep your head up, though, because what would America be like without all these rigorous guidelines and paperwork anyway? When you get sick of your carpal tunnel kicking in, and you’re going cross-eyed from staring at the same document over and over again— contact me! I have a contract solution for you…..you enter the data and it generates your AIA G702&G703 forms for you. Well, at least all the data that populates the forms, since those bad boys are copyrighted. One little click and your form is done…..no more banging your head into the wall.

“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” – Jim Rohn

Lindsay, a graduate of Metropolitan State University, resides in Minnesota with her two sons where she lives, works, and blogs at the intersection of technology and construction. Jump on board and follow her explorations; you never know where she’s taking you next!