The American Institute of Architects (AIA) published its first uniform contract for use between an owner and a contractor in 1888. In the 125+ years that have followed, AIA contract documents and administrative forms have emerged as the industry standard, and as the most heavily used group of form contracts in the construction industry. AIA has issued standard contracts and forms for all stages of a construction project – from initial contract to substantial completion – and for a variety of different construction delivery methods.

But with over 120 different form documents – each containing its own unique alphanumeric identifier – keeping track of the AIA forms, and knowing which one may be most appropriate for you, can be difficult tasks.

Those tasks can be made easier by understanding the AIA Document numbering system. That system is as follows:

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Each AIA document identifier begins with a letter. The letter identifies the document “Series”. Generally, the Series identifier describes the document’s purpose, such as who uses it or what for. The Series are as follows:

  • A = Owner / contractor agreements
  • B = Owner / architect agreements
  • C = Other agreements (including agreements between a prime contractor and subcontractors)
  • D = Miscellaneous agreements
  • E = Exhibits
  • G = Forms

The first number following the Series identifies the “Type” of document. The various types of documents, by number, are:

  • 1 = prime agreements
  • 2 = conditions and scopes
  • 3 = bonds / qualifications
  • 4 = sub-agreements
  • 5 = guides
  • 6 = documents pertaining to bidding

The second numerical digit describes the delivery system. The various documents within each delivery system are sometimes referred to being part of a “family.” For example, the A141, A142, B142, B143, C441 and G704DB (each of which features a “4” in the second numerical slot) are all part of the Design-Build family of AIA Documents. The various delivery methods / families are:

  • 0, 1, 2 = Conventional, i.e., design-bid-build
  • 3 = Construction Manager as Adviser, or Construction Manager as Constructor
  • 4 = Design-build
  • 5 = Interiors
  • 6 = International
  • 7 = Program Management
  • 9 = Integrated Project Delivery

The third and final numerical digit describes the document Sequence. For example, AIA has introduced several variations on the standard Owner / Architect contract. Each of these variants has its own number as part of the conventional delivery, owner / architect agreement “sequence”, including the B101-2007 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect), B103-2007 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for a Large or Complex Project), B104-2007 (Standard form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for a Project of Limited Scope), and the B105-2007 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for a Residential or Small Commercial Project).

After the letter and three numeric digits, each AIA document features a year identifying the edition of the document. AIA generally revises its documents on a uniform 10-year cycle. An updated suite of contract documents is currently scheduled for release in 2017.

Hopefully, this “key” gives contractors a way to decipher the AIA contract document numbers. What the numbering scheme also reinforces, though, is how interrelated the various documents are. The AIA documents are not drafted to operate in a vacuum, but rather to comprise part of a series of documents for all aspects of today’s complex construction projects. When AIA contract documents and forms are used, careful attention should be given not only to modifications made to the individual documents, but how those modifications may affect other AIA documents used for the project.