Detailed information required before raising Request for Information (RFI) in the construction project

Last Updated on October 1, 2022 by Admin

A formal inquiry posed by one party to a contract on a construction project to the other party is known as a Request for Information (RFI), which is also sometimes referred to as a technical query. The request will typically come from the contractor to the client’s consultant team, but it might come from any parties, such as a subcontractor to a contractor.

RFIs are essential in the construction sector. Even though there are strategies to keep RFIs low, many contractors fail to take advantage of them, which results in high costs and a sharp decline in their bottom line.

Around the world, there are 9.9 requests for information for every $1 million spent on construction, according to a Navigant Construction Forum assessment of 1,362 projects. After accounting for the review and response time, this translated to an average project cost of $859,680 that was set aside for RFIs.

A Request for Information (RFI) document is used to move these initiatives forward quickly and affordably. RFIs enlist the assistance of design and engineering experts to gather the vital data required to detail project variables that have materialized since the proposal or contract was initially drafted. The RFI is, in essence, a communication tool for the dynamic planning and decision-making required to finish a challenging and pricey construction project.

What is a request for information (RFI) in construction?

A request for information (RFI) is a form used to specify the necessary specifics of a project during the construction phase. In order to maintain the right design, specs, and materials throughout a complex building project, numerous RFIs are generated and responded to.

According to the American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas, “In most Construction Documents, it is unavoidable that the agreement, drawings, and specifications would not completely handle every single subject.” As a result, “There may be gaps, conflicts, or subtle ambiguities.” The purpose of the Request for Information (RFI) is to serve as a collaborative mechanism for resolving any discrepancies, disagreements, or subtle ambiguities during the tendering process or early in the construction process in order to avoid the need for expensive remedial actions.

The term “request for information” could give the impression that this is a straightforward procedure in which a question is posed and then replied. Unfortunately, things are not always so cut and dry. As the aforementioned definition makes clear, an RFI is a formal and somewhat challenging procedure that demands a tremendous amount of detail.

Construction According to Quality in Construction, RFIs are utilized by a wide range of parties and for a variety of purposes. The inquiry could be “a query from the Contractor to the Designer asking for information and explanations on some drawing” or “a question from the Contractor to the Client or other stakeholders of the project… In other instances, the Subcontractor contacts the Main Contractor to inquire about the subcontracted works. Clients frequently use RFIs far early in the procurement process to gather information from several businesses and determine which one could be the best fit for their needs.

What Is the Difference Between RFI, RFP, RFQ, and RFT?

It can be challenging to differentiate between RFIs, RFPs, RFQs, and even RFTs because there are so many distinct types of requests. Requests for Information (RFIs) are typically used within the project’s scope, whereas requests for proposals (RFPs), quotes (RFQs), and tenders (RFTs) are utilized at the early planning stage.

Even while not every project may need all of these requirements, it’s crucial to understand how they differ before beginning a new project.

Request for Quote (RFQ): RFQs are typically used when a client needs details about a certain good or service. In order to find out how a vendor or contractor will approach a specific area of a project, such as cost estimates or task descriptions, clients might submit an RFQ.

Request for Proposal (RFP): An RFP is a formal request used to compile detailed project information, such as procedures, schedules, and precise costs. RFPs are most frequently utilized by clients who need a thorough understanding of the conditions necessary to accomplish a project.

Request for tender (RFT): An RFT is the most explicit kind of request, and it requires the response to clearly state the conditions under which they would be held liable if their offer is approved. An RFT is essentially a request for a contract, and answers to RFTs are sometimes seen as being legally binding.

RFIs are used to clarify elements that may have been misrepresented or not fully clarified in the initial plans once a contract has been established and a project is underway.

Why Are Construction RFIs Important?

RFIs are essential in the building process even though no one enjoys more paperwork since they have an impact on risk, liability, quality, safety, budget, and risk management. Your project’s ability to finish on schedule and within budget can be significantly impacted by how you respond to construction RFIs. According to a 2013 global analysis by the Navigant Construction Forum of 1300 large construction projects and 1 million RFIs: The average cost of evaluating and responding to RFIs was $1,080, and there were 796 on average per project. The median response time was 9.7 days.

RFIs assist in the proper construction of structures, the production of high-caliber projects, and the happiness of clients. If you don’t properly and promptly respond to RFIs, that carelessness may result in expensive reconstruction work and, consequently, significant charges for the at-fault party (i.e., the contractor, architect, or owner). Paying additional expenses is never enjoyable for either party.

The accuracy of your writing and responses to RFIs may even be the difference between life and death: RFIs make sure that contractors keep the building and job site safe, utilize the right supplies, and carry out the work in the way that is required. RFIs serve as evidence that project participants carried out their duties properly. RFIs can be used to back up charges of carelessness or fraud if there are any disagreements later on. RFIs should be handled carefully because construction litigation can be expensive and time-consuming.

Types of construction RFI

The many RFI types are extremely diverse. Organizations generally accept a dozen or so different classifications. The most popular ones are listed here, along with a brief explanation of what they each contain and/or what they are intended to achieve. A few have been blended because of how similar they are.

  • Design Change: These RFI subtypes are among the broadest in existence. Changes to designs are by their very nature contentious because they can necessitate laborious workflow adjustments. Despite the fact that any reason can warrant a change, the way it is presented is crucial. Respect and professionalism are crucial, and they may make everyone’s experience more pleasurable.
  • Design Clarification/Incomplete Plans/Specs: These RFIs typically take less time than their more straightforward relative. These are frequently demands for clarification or simplification of how a project is set up or intended to develop. This may involve deciphering complex material or improving poorly labelled Specs. Here, a concise RFI response is achievable with a clear request for the information being sought. When done correctly, these fill in informational gaps and can result in a prompt response.
  • Materials Change: Workers and coordinators frequently deeply understand material science. They are, therefore in an excellent position to advise engineering, management, and other project teams and team members on materials. To minimize project disturbance, these are best completed early in the construction phase.
  • Time and Phasing: People on the ground frequently know how long something might take, similar to materials. These may also aim to alter the sequence and method of building. Taking these seriously can enhance timing and minimize the time lost by utilizing the building process experience of individuals implementing the designs. Explaining justification, such as a desire to speed up the project or better circumstances, can considerably improve these RFIs.
  • Site Conditions: These RFIs put a lot of emphasis on enhancing or changing the situation for those who are on the ground. This may improve quality of life, safety, or workflow effectiveness. It is the responsibility of people who are receiving construction RFIs to take these seriously.
  • Design or Construction Coordination: These RFIs frequently highlight logistical planning. Conditions, time, workflow, and safety could all be involved. Making a good record of these can make solving problems much simpler.
  • Value Engineering: These RFIs, which are a subset of worker insight, make use of individuals on the ground to improve quality, cut costs, or streamline the procedure.
  • Utility Conflict: Utility interruptions, like water lines, may be seen by workers while they work. These update the team and could propose or ask for removal or subversion techniques.
  • Constructability Issues: These address perceived implementation problems quite simply. The ability to translate a design from a concept to reality might not always be as straightforward as formerly believed.
  • Deleted Scope: These requests for information (RFIs) aim to cut project effort.

Construction RFI process

  1. A form is typically used to submit an RFI as part of its formal procedure. The process for submitting requests for information varies depending on the architect, designer, contractor, and subcontractor, though, as they are a common aspect of every construction project. As both parties struggle to keep track of all the various request methods over time and, according to some data, fail to receive a response 22% of the time, this may become exceedingly complex and expensive.The RFI process is intricate and frequently involves a wide range of parties, including clients, general contractors, consultants, architects, and engineers. RFIs typically receive a response within eight days, while sophisticated and lengthy projects may require much longer.RFIs commonly go through the following steps:
    • Step 1: A subcontractor draughts a request for information (RFI) and sends it to the general contractor to get clarification on the contract, the design, the specifications, or the standards.
    • Step 2: The general contractor, if qualified, provides a detailed response to the RFI’s inquiry.
    • Step 3: The RFI is forwarded to the customer, architect, engineer, consultant, subcontractor, or any further information required.
    • Step 4: The RFI is returned to the subcontractor after the appropriate individual responds with enough specificity.
    • Step 5: Resume work if the subcontractor is pleased with the response. Otherwise, the subcontractor updates and resubmits the request for information.

How To Write an Effective RFI

The following advice will help you write an RFI that will maximize your chances of receiving a precise and quick answer.

  • Define the problem: A crystal-clear statement of the issue that needs to be solved should always be made at the outset of an RFI. An RFI should also concentrate on a single issue because it will be more likely to get a suitable answer.
  • Provide a solution: As subject matter experts, subcontractors frequently devise brilliant solutions to problems that arise throughout a project and use the RFI process to submit them.
  • Offer context: Be sure to include any extra details required to describe the issue thoroughly. Because there is no background to fully respond to the query, many RFIs are sent back to the subcontractor.
  • Include visuals: Attaching important visuals, such as floor plans or photos, will assist make the problem clearer and more concrete, making it simpler for the general contractor to find a solution.

You should craft your RFI such that the architect, engineer, or other recipients can provide you a useful response as soon as they can. Standardize the format, be explicit in your inquiry, and provide background information about the problem, including photographs. Make sure the following components are included in your construction RFI:

  • Project title and location
  • The RFI number (in sequential order for the project)
  • Title of RFI (and a brief description)
  • A deadline for the answer and the date you submitted the RFI.
  • The requesting party’s name, title, company, and contact information
  • An explanation of the request with a question at the top and a mention of the pertinent specification, plan, or drawing
  • The responding party’s name, title, company, and contact information.
  • Spaces for the response and the date of the response
  • Information on the attachments includes a description of any images, screenshots, or invoices.
  • When applicable, a section is outlining modifications to the price or construction.

How To Respond to an RFI

To support the project and build goodwill among contractors and subcontractors, specialists such as architects, engineers, and other professionals should answer to RFIs quickly, cooperatively, and comprehensively. An RFI response failure is a severe error.

Throughout a multi-year construction project, general contractors may receive hundreds of RFIs, so it’s critical to have a productive process to manage them.

  • Log all RFIs: Keep track of all incoming RFIs using a spreadsheet or project management program, and assign each one a specific number and a deadline for the answer.
  • Read RFIs carefully: Due to an incomplete understanding of the RFI, too many RFIs are returned before a question has been satisfactorily answered. Before preparing a response, take the time to read the RFI and any supporting documents thoroughly.
  • Involve others if necessary: When a problem arises, that necessitates specialized attention, be sure to involve engineers, architects, and consultants, as they may have expertise that a general contractor lack.
  • Respond fully: Although it may be tempting to expedite the RFI process, failure to provide a full answer to an RFI will typically result in the subcontractor returning the RFI. As such, always offer a full response when it is practical.

Above all, be sure to quickly reply to RFIs, as they can create project delays and cost overruns if they are not.

Ten Best Practices to improve RFIs in Construction

Adapt your thinking when it comes to RFIs for construction. RFIs should be viewed as a chance to streamline and enhance the design, engineering, and construction processes rather than as a necessary evil that must be endured. Mobile technology that can support effective, accurate and user-friendly RFIs is required when technical answers to thorny questions are required. This prevents drama from escalating in the first place. Here are 10 suggestions for enhancing the construction industry’s RFI procedure:

Know that timing is everything

Make sure to submit at the right moment if you want a quick response. Despite the fact that this may seem obvious, hasty and subpar RFIs are frequently the outcome. Recognize the precise deadline for submitting an RFI, and send it as soon as feasible. Once more, the average performance within the sample data is a first reaction time of 6.4 days, according to Navigant Construction Forum. If you need further follow-up, keep in mind that the industry standard is a median reaction time of 9.7 days. It goes without saying that the earlier you submit, the more likely it is that it won’t affect the overall timetable, ensuring a more successful project.

Clearly define the problem

RFIs are frequently answered incorrectly because the issue is not properly stated or because there are too many topics covered. To ensure a thorough and fast response, it is important to limit RFIs to a single, distinct concern. That also means that it’s critical to write clearly because a poorly written RFI is likely to receive a similarly poorly written answer. RFIs can be made better by reducing the use of jargon and technical words.

And offer solutions

After the issue has been identified, you may have one or many solutions in mind. Offer a few of your ideas instead of waiting for respondents to offer a solution. Giving choices will speed up the procedure. Now, rather of having to come up with a solution on their own, the engineer, owner, or architect merely needs to validate an existing one.

Ask for the response you want

Be specific in your RFIs about what constitutes a complete response in order to enhance RFIs and prevent receiving an inadequate or incomplete response. Make a note of the details you’ll need to provide in order to address the queries raised by your initial request appropriately.

Centralize data access and management

To enable team members to process RFIs quickly, whether they are on the sending or receiving side of the exchange, correct documentation standards must be used in conjunction with a central repository for project and contract information. At the very least, this database should contain important details about the request, such as the send date and the sender and recipient’s details. Due to the frequent occurrence of modification requests, RFIs, and other interactions during the project, maintaining a consolidated source of contract information is crucial for instantly updating the plan’s schedule and budget.

Standardize the process

How many other forms and media have you used to send and receive RFIs? You need a better method because not having a common template and form for RFIs is a big disadvantage. Ask the contractor the standard format they prefer or use before assuming anything. Your chances of receiving a response will increase if you meet their expectations and adjust to their procedures. Additionally, make sure to transmit your RFI through a formal channel rather than email, paper, or another method that is most convenient at the time.

Utilizing cloud-based software is one highly effective technique to formally and uniformly define the procedure. You may quickly submit RFIs and track them throughout the entire process using specific tools if you build up templates and clearly defined protocols, giving everyone involved better insight. This will also let you keep track of and view all RFIs, both answered and unanswered, in one place.

Establishing a systematic escalation mechanism is another beneficial technique to enhance RFIs. What, for instance, ought to do when an RFI is not answered promptly? To keep things flowing, establish the procedure in advance.

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Provide additional information

Everything may depend on context. Make sure to include more information in documents to clarify the query, even if it’s very briefly stated, if you wish to improve RFIs at your organization. Use software that enables you to link pertinent photographs and documents in the RFI so that it may be quickly examined and assessed after it is handed to the recipient.

The possibility of delays and costs is not limited to waiting for RFIs. Whatever your motivations, keeping customers waiting on your end is awful. It’s important to expedite RFI responses as well in order to prevent RFI expenditures from exceeding the size of your structure.

Don’t be afraid to say no

RFIs frequently take longer to complete because the engineer, architect, or owner does not want to do the work. Accept the process as it is rather than dragging it out and slowing it down. Just bear in mind to act professionally, be courteous, and offer solid justification. The worst thing you can do is make no response at all, so act responsibly and take swift action.

Read the RFI carefully

When responding to a construction RFI, be sure to properly follow the instructions in order to prevent getting pings again. Never ignore a question, and be sure to give thorough explanations for all the questions you are asked. A response to an RFI that says “most of” it is not acceptable.

Think carefully about the contract

While this is a step that should be taken at the very beginning of a project, carefully considering the project delivery method will help you reduce the number of RFIs if you find them to be unbearable. Design-build and integrated project delivery (IPD) methods encourage collaboration and communication to the point where RFIs are no longer required.

Final Thought

An RFI is a crucial part of any construction project. The process as a whole takes a lot of time and administrative work. A number of documents and rounds of feedback are sent between the parties involved in order to address the clarifying concerns raised by the RFI documentation and keep the project rolling. Finally, RFI is seen as useful and helps with information collection for both ongoing and upcoming building projects.

The risk of potential conflicts, which can result in unanticipated expenditures, will be reduced if your project teams adhere to corporate standards and are aware of the value of RFIs. In conclusion, by taking the procedures below, you may successfully manage the RFI process for every project:

  • Send out RFIs as soon as you realize you need more information.
  • Give yourself time to get responses by the construction contract.
  • Instead of asking numerous questions, keep each RFI to a single topic.
  • Include any supplemental information, including drawings, specs, or images.
  • Use an easy-to-read company RFI template, and keep track of all responses.
  • Close RFI notices once they have received satisfactory responses.
  • Make it simple for the entire project team to access RFIs.

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