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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
FEB 01, 2019
Requests for Information
Requests for information (RFI) are a very common business practice in project planning and management. The RFI asks for detailed information about a product — such as specifications, product requirements and purchase options. With this information, the project manager can determine if the product meets the project needs and requirements, within the established financial constraints.
In construction, the RFI has a significantly different application. RFIs are a critical way of communicating the proper completion of a project. The right process can improve efficiency and quality on the construction site.
Communicating using RFIs
RFIs are a common and accepted procedure used to confirm the interpretation of a detail, specification or note on the construction drawings. Or, to obtain a written clarification from an architect/client so a portion of work can be properly completed. RFIs are used to obtain and document information that is not contained, or inferable, in the actual contract documents.
They are common on virtually every construction job. In fact, several organizations have developed averages indicating normal use of RFIs:
15 to 20 RFIs per $1 million dollars in project value is a widely accepted average indicator
The administrative and professional average cost for an RFI is $1,000
Establishing an RFI process
The RFI process should be documented in the contract. The contract should indicate what primary areas the RFIs should cover. This process definition helps avoid abuse of the process, controls costs and keeps the project moving forward. The contract commonly addresses:
What is considered an RFI issue
The specific process and documentation platform
Allotted time to address an RFI (generally one hour to 10 days)
Contractual problems and issues
Construction change or change request orders
Common contractual types of RFIs include:
Design clarification (conflicts, specification, verification, incomplete plans)
Design change requests (sequence errors, construction errors)
Material substitutions (material shortages, value improvement, ease of use)
Unable to construct as designed (constructability)
Site condition changes (site conditions impacting specifications)
Contractual processes are also designed to help avoid abuse of RFI’s. Common abuse of the RFI’s process include:
Continual issuance of design specifications in lieu of competed design documents at the time of contract issuance
Approval of means and methods
The RFI is normally submitted by a general or subcontractor, asking for information from a design or engineering professional. The life cycle of an RFI can move as quickly as one hour on simple items, or can take up to 10 days on a complicated issue.
How an RFI affects a project
Benefits of a properly executed RFI plan include increased efficiency, reduced rework, effective communication and improved quality.
Unfortunately, a poorly designed RFI process can allow subcontractors to abuse the system, which results in numerous delays, poor quality outcomes and improper negligent design efforts.
Today, numerous electronic platforms exist to help contractors streamline and document the process. These software systems can help contractors manage RFI’s by utilizing common software platforms, allowing them to save time, reduce costs, improve documentation and ensure quality.