Photo Courtesy of WAR Construction Inc.
The city of Northport's Fire Station No. 3 was built by WAR Construction in 2009. The team used several ConsensusDocs contracts on the project.

Since its introduction in September 2007, the ConsensusDocs movement has struggled to become a serious contender in the arena of standardized design and construction forms. Developed by a coalition of more than 40 industry groups, ConsensusDocs—a catalog of 100-plus standardized contract documents—set out to become the industry standard, but early software challenges and other criticisms thwarted widespread adoption.

Now, with initial kinks resolved and a host of new offerings, ConsensusDocs is gaining traction in the marketplace, experiencing its biggest growth to date with annual licenses doubling to more than 2,000 over the past two years.

"We have reached the point with usage that we are a clear and viable choice with a proven track record of success," says Brian Perlberg, executive director and counsel of ConsensusDocs, and senior counsel for construction law and contracts with the Associated General Contractors of America.

A revised software platform, with online access and MS Word editing and collaborating capabilities, launched in April 2012 and helped set ConsensusDocs' ascent in motion. Subscription packages introduced over recent months may give ConsensusDocs the continued momentum it needs.

Among the early adopters of ConsensusDocs was WAR Construction Inc. of Tuscaloosa, Ala. "Since we've used ConsensusDocs, we have not had any litigation," says James E. Latham, CEO, WAR Construction. "That could be luck, or the fact that the contracts are written in plain English to ensure that everyone clearly understands their roles and responsibilities. That eliminates some of the confusion that often creates ligation."

In addition to a full annual license that provides access to its complete document suite, ConsensusDocs now offers four smaller subscription packages customized for the specific needs of different industry professionals. The packages, which provide access to a subset of the complete ConsensusDocs suite, are less expensive, costing between 10% and 65% less than a full license, which retails for roughly $1,000 annually.

A design professionals subscription package offers contract documents most commonly utilized for design projects, and an owners and design-builders subscription features contract documents utilized by owners and design-builders.

A new owners package offers 39 contract documents tailored to meet owners' project needs, while an owners and consultants package provides 19 contract documents specific to the relationship between owners and consultants.

"The volume and type of work we work do at the university justifies investing in a full annual license, but the new owners packages offered by ConsensusDocs are considerably smaller and more affordable," says Jack Mumma, construction contract administrator at Michigan State University. "They are just the right scale and right entry price for many owners."

As past president of the Construction Owner's Association of America, Mumma was among the stakeholders who helped develop ConsensusDocs. The neutrality of the documents, he says, is one of the reasons that COAA continues to endorse the use of ConsensusDocs.