American Institute of Architects (AIA)

What is the AIA?
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the professional organization that helps architects serve the public's needs and builds awareness of the role of architects and architecture in American society.

Look for the AIA initials after the name of any architect you consider for your project. AIA architects remain current with professional standards through continuing education and subscribe to a code of ethics and professional conduct that assure clients, the public and colleagues of their dedication to high standards in professional practice.

You can learn more about the national activities of the AIA at www.aia.org, or locally at www.aiachicago.org.
Why should I hire an AIA Architect?
Like doctors and lawyers, architects are licensed professionals. Only an individual who possesses a state license to practice architecture may use the title "Architect". They are the only professionals in the construction industry who are ethically bound to represent you, the building owner.

Professional qualifications generally include:
  • College degree from an accredited school of architecture, requiring five or more years of professional studies
  • Three years of internship under the supervision of licensed architects
  • Passage of a rigorous five-day examination


Only those professionals, who have fulfilled these requirements, or other requirements as stipulated by each individual state, may legally call themselves architects and practice architecture in the jurisdiction granting the license. Individuals may be registered, or licensed, in more than one state by means of reciprocal licensing agreements among the states.
What do Architects do?
You have a vision of what you want. Now you need to make that vision a reality. Here's how architects can help you:

Architects see the big picture
Architects are specially educated to help you define what you want to build, present options you might never have considered, and help you get the most for your valuable investment. They don't just design four walls and a roof -- they create total environments, both interiors and exteriors that are functional and exciting places in which to work and live.

Architects solve problems creatively
Architects are trained problem solvers. Need more room for your growing family? Architects can show you how to enlarge your home so you won't have to move. Have a limited budget? Architects can propose ways to get more for your investment than you imagined possible.

Architects help you get the most from your construction dollar
Architects can reduce building costs, decrease your home's energy needs, and increase its future resale value through good design.

Architects make your life easier
Building is a long process that is often messy and disruptive, particularly if you're living in the space while it's under construction. Your architect represents you, not the contractors. Your architect looks out for your interests and smoothes the process, helps find qualified construction contractors, and visits the worksite to help protect you against work that's not according to plan.

Speak with an architect who is a member of The American Institute of Architects (AIA) at the earliest stage of the design process.
What are the typical phases of a project?
It is customary for most projects to be broken down into the following phases:

Programming and Schematic Design

Design Development

Construction Documentation

Bidding, Negotiation, and Permitting

Construction Administration

A full description of these phases can be seen by visiting the link "The Design Process" to the left.
Why should I use AIA Contract Documents?
The AIA Contract Documents Program, the oldest and most comprehensive program of its kind in the world, develops standardized contract forms and administrative procedures for the building industry. AIA contract documents provide the basis for nationwide uniformity for contractual relationships in the design and construction process. They represent the state of the law regarding construction industry practices and new legal developments. Most important they assure fairness to all parties--owners, architects, engineers, builders, and contractors--and contribute to successful projects.

Any project will benefit from the use of AIA contract documents. Contact your local AIA chapter or discuss AIA contract documents with an AIA architect.

The following are some of the more commonly used documents:
A101: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor
A201: General Conditions of the Contract for Construction
B141: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect
G701: Change Order
G702: Application and Certificate for Payment
G704: Certificate of Substantial Completion
The Architect's Fee
The architect's fee can be determined a number of ways depending on the individual firm, the job size and scope, and the design services provided.

Some different methods for determining fees are:

Stipulated Sum - a fixed fee for a determined scope of services

Percent of Construction - a fee is estimated at the outset of the project and then adjusted to reflect a percentage of the final construction cost of the project.

Time and Materials - fees are charged on an hourly basis.

Some firms use a combination of these methods.