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Construction Law Today

Construction Contracts: Top 10 Terms – Changes (Minor Changes)

Posted in Top 10 Construction Contract Terms

Specialty ToolMinor Change Background

Following construction change directives, “minor changes” are the final way to make changes. With the limits on how and when minor changes are allowed, “nominal” change is probably a better name. But they’ve been called minor changes for so long, we’ll continue the tradition here.

Like many of our other construction contract phrases and features, the minor change most likely originates in the AIA contracts. Currently, Section 7.4 of the AIA A201 “general conditions” identify minor changes, and how and when they may happen. Based on that model, other published forms and manuscript contracts usually adopt something similar.

Minor Change Features and Limits

Here’s the principal features and limits you need to know about minor changes to the work:

  • The change must not affect (1) the price of the work or (2) the time to complete it
  • The order mandating the change must be written
  • Usually, only the architect (or comparable design professional) may order a minor change. That’s what you’ll find in in the AIA contract forms. But sometimes parties subvert architectural hegemony and change their contracts to allow the owner to order a minor change under a prime contract, a prime contractor to order one under a subcontract, etc.

Minor Change Commentary & Wrap-Up

Like construction change directives, minor changes aren’t common, but for different reasons. Construction change directives are rare principally because they’re polarizing. Minor changes are rare because there’s so seldom changes you can make without affecting the price of the work and the time it takes to complete. And if that’s the case, parties often jointly sign a change order to make the change without controversy. Now if minor change conditions exist and the change order pre-signing review and approval process for one side or both is cumbersome and lengthy, then a minor change makes a lot so sense.

Minor changes, they’re useful for a limited universe of things. Their own internal limits make them rare and usually benign—one of those specialty tools you don’t use often, but are really glad to have when you need it.