How to Improve the (RFI) Request for Information Process

How to Improve the (RFI) Request for Information Process

What does RFI stand for in construction? RFI or Request for Information in construction, in a nutshell, is an official document written by a contractor to the architect, engineer of the owner during the construction process. An RFI is an official document that is drawn up when there are: unclear project information in the documents, unforeseen conditions the construction site like an unplanned change in resources or a sudden price increase,  or design plans inconsistencies and errors.

An RFI is usually sent by the contractor to the architect, engineer or the owner. An RFI is meant to be a helpful communication tool to help increase efficiency. However, inefficient RFI’s and sending too many of them can pose a problem to the construction project in terms of time delay and a huge dent on the company’s bottom line.

In a study titled Impact & Control of RFI’s on Construction Project by the Navigant Construction Forum, it was found out that over 22% of the RFI’s sent were not answered.  That number can cause a significant delay in any construction project.

So this begs the question, how can the RFI process be streamlined so they are effective?  Project managers in the field over the years have had many actionable suggestions on how RFI can be handled, but the most effective ones are below.

Learn How To Write An RFI Construction Effectively

If you need to write an RFI, you must learn how to write it effectively so that it doesn’t get bounced around back and forth. Granting that each company has their own format on how to draft an RFI, below are the things that you can keep in mind when writing an RFI:

  • I. S ( Keep It Simple) Ask one question per RFI. Focus on making one clear question per RFI so that its more efficient, and you can get the answer that you need.
  • Add Visuals. Who doesn’t like pictures? Add visuals to your RFi’s to make sure that everything is well understood. Chances are, because you are in the construction industry, attaching a drawing or perhaps a video is something that you can do.
  • Include a Due Date. All Construction projects run on a deadline, and RFI’s are no different. If an RFI is not urgent, make sure to indicate it on your RFI, however, if your RFI’s are urgent and need immediate attention, make sure that your due date reflects that too.

Nip It In The Bud

The best RFI is no RFI at all.  Reducing the amount of RFI sent and received starts way before the construction process even begins. Having everyone in the team – designers, engineers, and architects collaborate during the planning phase can help define issues before they become a problem. Methods that promote collaboration such as design-build and design-assist methods have lesser RFI’s than the traditional design-bid-build method.

Be Tech Savvy

Project Management software that offers RFI management like  Procore can be an RFI solution to manage RFI’s.  There are literally hundreds of RFI’s that are being exchanged during the life cycle of a construction project, and having the right tool to organize and track these RFI’s can go a long long way in making sure that no RFI’s go unanswered in the project.

Lawyer Up

 Let’s face it, RFI’s are not fun, and no one enjoys making or receiving one. In fact, as we have already established at the beginning of this article,  one of the biggest problems of RFI’s in construction is the slow response or virtually no response at all. This can cause a domino effect of consequences for the construction project including delays and worse, lawsuits.

To avoid this, you need to start with the contract.  Schedule a meeting with your lawyer and make sure that the contract outlines exactly who is involved in the RFI process as well as the include the specific time that the RFI’s need to be answered, and the ramification that can result if an RFI is not answered on time, or is totally ignored.

It is paramount that your company outlines and follows a strict RFI process that documents the process all throughout its lifespan because RFI’s can be key evidence in a legal claim. Personnel who are directly involved in the RFI’s should be thoroughly trained in your company’s RFI process.  It is also very important to make sure that   Make sure that RFI’s are tracked efficiently whether you do it manually, through a spreadsheet or through an RFI tracking software.


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