What is an RFI in construction?

An RFI is a request for information that is used to get clarification on any ambiguities or gaps in documentation, such as specifications, drawings, contracts, and the other documents.

The RFI procedure may seem simple, but it is frequently a cause of delays, costs, dispute, and, in some cases, litigation. As a result, it is in the best interest of all parties involved in construction projects to have a solid knowledge of how RFI function and how to utilize them effectively.

Why Are RFI in Construction So Important?

When it comes to the construction, RFIs are essential since they affect safety and quality while also affecting the project's budget, risk, and responsibility. Your approach to managing RFIs may make or break your project's timeliness and budget constraints.One million RFIs from 1,300 large construction projects across the globe were analyzed in 2013 by the Navigant Construction Forum. Median response time was 9.7 days, average cost to examine and reply to RFIs was $1,080, and average project had 796 RFIs.

When used effectively, RFIs aid in the construction of a structure that results in high-quality projects and satisfied customers. If you don't respond to RFIs in a timely manner, you may be liable for expensive reconstruction work and large costs to the at-fault party (i.e., the contractor, architect, or owner). Expenses are never welcomed by any of the parties involved.

RFI writing and response might be life or death. For example, the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, collapsed in 1981 , killing 114 people. Failure to properly communicate design changes between architect and steel fabricator ultimately led to the construction's flaws, as discovered by an investigation.

Reason to raise RFI in construction

  • When someone needs further information or clarification.
  • When someone proposes a substitution or an alteration.
  • When someone identifies a problem or deficiency.

Types of Construction RFIs

There are many different kinds of RFI. A dozen or more different types are generally recognised by most companies. Here are the most widely acknowledged ones, along with a short description of what each includes and/or its purpose. Due to their similarities, some have been merged into one.rfi-on-site

1Change in Method or ProcessWhen the contractor wants to change a specified building or installation technique.
2Construction CoordinationRequest to organize and coordinate construction-related procedures, schedules, and safety items.
3Constructability IssuesWhen the construction document articulates a detail or design that the contractor deems infeasible.
4Design Coordination Organizing, communicating, and coordinating the design and associated documents among project participants.
5Timing and PhasingWhen the builder needs to change the sequence of construction activities due to resource or labour constraints.
6Design ClarificationWhen the requester seeks more information about the design in order to better understand its details and how they relate to the project.
7Design ChangeTo revise the design in order to facilitate construction or fix a construction mistake.
8Deleted ScopesTo remove work from the project.
9Incomplete Plans or SpecsThis type of RFI points out errors or omissions in the plans and specifications.
10Material ChangeWith this type of RFI, the requester seeks to use a different material than the construction documents specify.
11Site ConditionsWhen builders discover a discrepancy between the description of site conditions in the construction documents and the actual site conditions.
12Utility ConflictWhen utility lines (such as water pipes or power wires) stand in the way of proceeding with construction as originally planned.
13Value EngineeringTo make changes for the purpose of reducing cost, improving efficiency, or enhancing quality.
14Other IssuesAny other types of RFI that might come up, such as requests related to warranties, certifications and inspections, penalties, and non-design documents.

How to Write a Construction RFI

Your RFI should be written in a manner that aids the architect, engineer, or other receiver in providing you with a timely response. Ensure that the format is standard, your query is properly stated, and that you provide relevant background, such as photographs.

Make sure your construction RFI includes the following elements:

  • Project name and address.
  • RFI number (in sequential order for the project).
  • RFI title (and a brief description).
  • The date you sent the RFI and the response deadline.
  • Requester's name, title, company, and contact details.
  • A detailed explanation of the request, starting with a query and referencing the applicable specification, plan, or design.
  • Respondent's name, title, company, and contact details.
  • A place for answer and a date of response.
  • Attachments description such as photographs, screenshots etc.
  • Section to explain cost or construction adjustments if required.

What is the process to create RFI?

The construction RFI process defines how inquiries are asked and answered over the course of a project. The RFI may be raised by a contractor or a subcontractor, and it may subsequently be sent to an architect or any other competent specialist for response.

The RFI may be resubmitted if the response is not satisfactory to the party that asked the question. Alternatively, the contractor may ask a meeting to discuss the matter further.

RFIs are often reviewed and mediated by a project manager on large-scale building projects. Because so many individuals are involved in these large projects, all parties handle RFIs electronically, preserving records of these paperwork and their responses. There should be a defined mechanism for allocating RFI tasks to each team member.

Best Practices to produce Effective Construction RFIs

RFIs frustrate both issuer and responder. Following a few simple practises that will help ease or even eliminate this stress.

  • In contracts, define a procedure for RFIs. Define RFI-related process, terms and situations, including what makes a valid RFI, in order to ensure that all parties involved have the same understanding. Make that all project participants, particularly those in the field, adopt the RFI system. Use a standardized RFI form and assign RFI numbers sequentially.
  • Set a time limit within which designers are required to reply to RFIs. (Allow designers to explain why they need additional time when implementing this method.)
  • Consider implementing a ranking system for RFIs based on urgency or significance. High-priority RFIs may close soon by the implementation of such system.
  • Ask only 1 question per RFI.
  • Create a system for escalating unresolved RFIs, especially when they pile up. You can add the number of unanswered RFIs in your project status updates to make this backlog more visible.
  • Centralize the database of RFIs with the date, time, sender-receiver information. You could use digital tool to store, track, and monitor RFIs, speeds communication and information sharing.
  • Give each RFI a unique name and number.
  • Submit RFIs in advance to avoid last-minute delays.
  • Before writing an RFI, consult the project’s contract documents to verify that the answer to your question does not already exist within a project’s contract documents.
  • Make sure the RFI asks a question. Don’t use the process to express an opinion, voice a disagreement, or inform parties of a future change.
  • Write clearly and concisely. Adopt a neutral tone. Don’t try to make the architect or engineer look bad.
  • Attach images, screenshot, sheets wherever required.
  • Propose a solution, and, ideally, offer at least two options, so the architect or engineer only has to pick one.
  • Specify all the information you need in order to facilitate the response. Remember to request such data as part numbers, colour names, and installation techniques.
  • Always respond promptly, cooperatively, and completely to RFIs, even if only to point out where you provided a particular answer in the original plans. Provide a solution, and give an example if possible. Include drawings, photos, or any supplemental information.
  • When an RFI answer is received, review the schedule and budget to see if changes are needed.
  • Devote sufficient time during pre-construction to reviewing and understanding construction documents.

Improve RFI Process with Livefield

The Livefield platform makes it simple to plan, collect, manage, and report on work from any location, allowing your team to be more productive and do more work in less time. With real-time communication and automatic updates, you can make smarter, more informed choices while still completing your projects on schedule and under budget.

Livefield users commonly utilise the RFI features in most design and project management applications. They say that adopting Livefield to handle RFIs, along with other critical components of a construction project, makes the process smoother and simpler to follow.

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