A construction project is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts and stakeholders involved.
And unfortunately, no matter how much coordination or how in-depth your pre-construction plan is, there will always be questions.
__text in bold__Enter: a request for information (RFI).
These essential documents help keep a project moving along swiftly while gleaning key information from designers and engineers.
Let’s dive deeper into these requests, why they’re important, and look at best practices when drafting one up.
A request for information (RFI) is a document that aims to gather additional information during the course of a construction project.
It’s inevitable that the estimate, scope, and/or blueprints will have missing information and not address everything. So the goal of the RFI is to bridge the gap and obtain this necessary information.
There are a lot of different types of RFIs out there—most organizations have dozens of classifications. But these are the most common ones:
A design change RFI is submitted when the subcontractor notices a mistake in the designs that needs fixing in order for the project to continue.
Design changes can be contentious because of the time-consuming workflow that is required.
Plus, no one likes to hear their design might be faulty. Crafting a professional and respectful RFI can help ease some feelings.
These are simply a request for further information about details within the design or specs in order to paint a clearer picture of the project.
This could mean asking about specs that are poorly labeled or triple-checking confusing information.
These emerge when the requester is looking to use different materials than the ones stated in the construction documents because they’re better for the project.
If a builder needs to change the order of the construction process, they submit this type of RFI. This could happen due to labor or material constraints.
Time and phasing RFIs could greatly improve the project's timeline, making them an important request.
If the builder gets to the site and the conditions are different than what’s stated in the designs, they should submit an RFI.
Doing so can provide clarity on how the project should move forward and if other RFIs need to be sent.
These are submitted to ask all parties involved with the project to communicate, coordinate, and organize the documents among one another.
Design coordination RFIs specifically deal with the designs, while construction coordination RFIs are requests for safety and schedule information.
Contractors submit this RFI to request changes that would enhance the quality, reduce construction costs', or boost the efficiency of the project based on conditions at the site.
Contractors might notice utility lines—water pipes, power lines—in the way of their construction project.
They can submit this RFI to request the removal of these barriers or to obtain a solution on how to proceed.
If the construction documents have a detail or design that the contractor deems infeasible or impossible to construct, they file a constructibility issue RFI.
This differs from the design change RFI because it asks for clarity on parts of the design, not for a design overhaul.
While no one prefers extra paperwork, RFIs are critical in the construction process because they influence the project’s safety, quality, budget, risk, and liability.
Faulty or improper communication between parties could affect the general timeline or the contractor's livelihood.
Communicating concerns or improvement suggestions clearly helps to ensure a safe and successful project.
Submitting RFIs is important, but a fast and thoughtful response is just as important, if not more so.
A study of one million RFIs found the average response is just over nine days.
Not only is that a lot of downtime in the project’s timeline, but it’s a major cost too.
The average cost for reviewing and responding to RFIs was $1,080 and the average number of RFIs per project was 796.
This clearly adds up, and no one wants to shoulder these extra costs. Simply responding to an RFI swiftly can help avoid these costly delays.
There are many stakeholders involved in a construction project.
So making sure the RFI gets to the right person can involve a lot of steps and time. Here’s typically what the process looks like when submitting an RFI:
A subcontractor writes an RFI asking for clarity regarding the designs, contract, specifications, or standards. It’s then submitted to the general contractor.
The general contractor should produce a response and send it back to the subcontractor.
However, if they need more information, or the general contractor cannot answer it alone, the RFI is sent to the architect, engineer, consultant, or client.
Once the appropriate person has the RFI, they answer it with sufficient information and send it back to the subcontractor.
Work resumes. Or, if the answer does not suffice, the RFI is revised and sent through the process again.
On larger construction projects, the project manager is the one responsible for reviewing and sending RFIs to the right people.
Design, engineering, and construction project teams then assess the RFI depending on the ask.
However, generally, it’s the people on the ground who prepare and submit the initial RFIs.
Ensuring an RFI gets a swift response starts with submitting an effective request. Take a look at some RFI best practices:
Rather than just submitting a statement, it’s best to ask a question that the contractor needs to have answered.
Since multiple stakeholders will see an RFI, the wording should be clear and concise, leaving little room for confusion.
By simply stating the problem rather than asking a question, the engineer or designer might not understand what is needed from them.
Asking a question makes it clear exactly what the problem is.
The person receiving the RFI might not be as familiar with the job site or jargon as the person submitting the request.
Making sure the question is surrounded by context and is jargon-free helps to ensure anyone reading it will understand.
Understanding the reasoning behind the question is just as important as the ask.
Including visuals—sketches, photos, videos—helps to add additional context to the request.
The person requesting can point to the visuals to help eliminate any confusion.
The person submitting the RFI should feel free to present their idea on how to solve the problem.
Making a suggestion can help speed up the response process—a win, win for everyone.
There are thousands of construction companies so there are thousands of construction RFI templates.
That being said, let’s look at an example of a standard construction RFI:
Here's an example of a simplified RFI:
It integrates with your favorite tools, so you can share data and track requests across a variety of platforms.
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