Design Delegation in the New AIA A201 General Conditions

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

AIA recently approved its 1997 edition of the A201 General Conditions, receiving endorsement of this document from AGC, ASA and other associations. However, many general contractors and members of AGC appear to have serious reservations concerning the perceived design delegation contained in that AIA document.

For example, many contractors believe that design delegation in the 1997 edition of the AIA A201 has created a "mini-design-build" where the architect need only specify performance criteria and the contractor must then design the details to satisfy the criteria and produce results.

Others believe that the 1997 edition of the AIA A201 simply attempts to recognize the current reality of design delegation to contractors and subcontractors by more expressly addressing this issue.

One change helpful to contractors is that the contractor no longer has to read the design professional's mind to produce the "intended" result, but only must produce the result "indicated" in the contract documents.

Design delegation is prohibited unless (1) these services are specifically required by the contract documents or (2) the contractor must do so to fulfill his responsibility for construction methods and means. Where design is specifically requested of the contractor in the contract documents, the design professional must specify all of the performance or design criteria that must be satisfied and must still review and approve the contractor's submittal for conformance with the design concept.

Contractors and subcontractors should carefully scrutinize the contract documents to ascertain what design responsibilities are being imposed and that the design professional is honoring his or her obligations in this process. However, contractors who make the design necessary to satisfy the design professional's criteria are not responsible if those criteria do not produce the desired result.

In addition, contractors and subcontractors are cautioned to consult their insurance consultants to make sure that any delegated design risk is covered by the appropriate liability insurance coverage.