A Fast and Simple Guide to Construction RFIs

construction RFIs

Construction RFIs are an integral part of every project.

When questions arise, conflicts appear, and site conditions change, contractors and their subcontractors don’t have the authority to modify the design or waiver from the construction process without written approval. 

So when field conditions don’t match the design drawings, the construction team must submit a Request For Information (RFI) to ask for guidance and direction on how best to proceed. 

What is a construction RFI?

Construction RFIs are the formal communications that arise when contractors face difficulty bringing the built environment to life.

When construction teams encounter obstacles or anticipate barriers to progress, the contract states they must first consult the design drawings and specifications for direction. 

If they don’t find the answers they need through research or contract documents, contractors submit a Request For Information (RFI) to the design team for clarification through the RFI process. 

RFIs are not always questions. 

RFIs might also include suggestions or requests to do things differently than instructed in the contract documents, especially if the proposed changes would benefit the owner, the budget, or the schedule.

  • Material substitutions,
  • Design alterations,
  • Change of sequencing, coordination, or routing,
  • …are all examples of RFIs.

AIA form G716-2004

So, an RFI is a formal communication that is logged, tracked, managed, and part of the construction contract.

What are the different types of construction RFIs?

There are over a dozen categories of RFIs, but the typical Request For Information is most commonly related to design clarifications and constructability issues.

RFIs resolve discrepancies between the construction drawings and the contractor’s ability to perform work to specification.

Missing design elements that were undetectable until construction was underway are another cause for initiating an RFI. 

For example, missing leads, feeds, connections, supportive structures, fixtures, features, or finishes required by building codes that are not included in the design need RFIs.

Subcontractors will also generate RFIs to suggest different installation methods or material substitutions that would add value to the project. 

Material substitutions and installation methods that lower costs, decrease installation times, accelerate the schedule or create a safer construction environment fall under the category of Value Engineering and are always a welcome contribution to the project.

How does the construction RFI submittal process work?

RFIs are official contract documents written in a standard format, and the RFI submission process follows a specific workflow.

Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computing in Civil and Building Engineering

Typically, a subcontractor will generate an RFI. But RFIs are just as likely to come from the general contractor too.

All RFIs run through an RFI manager, even if the RFI manager and the project manager are the same people. There will always be a responsible party on the general contractor’s construction team who reviews the Request For Information before sending it up the chain for a response. 

What does an RFI manager do?

The RFI manager is responsible for running a smooth Request For Information process.

RFI managers prioritize, organize, sequentially number, title, categorize, and track each Request For Information to update their teams and for future reference.

The RFI manager also runs every RFI through a rigorous review before submitting it to the design team for their review and response.

Is the RFI written clearly?

The RFI must be legible and easily understood. 

The RFI manager is responsible for honoring the design team’s time and resources by prescreening RFIs for clarity.

Has the submitter included all the pertinent information?

When submitting a Request For Information, it is always wise to include as much context as possible. 

Marked-up design drawings, sketches, photographs, and videos help the reviewers understand the issue and make the best recommendations.

The RFI should be easy to understand and respond to for the best results.

Is the RFI focused on only one issue?

Defining the RFI with a single question or specific request is mandatory. 

RFIs that stray, express opinions, or attempt to cover multiple problems within a single request will be rejected.

Does the RFI include proposed solutions?

The contractor submitting the RFI should suggest solutions to the issue under review if possible

Giving the design team options from the field is the fastest way to resolve most RFIs.

Does the RFI include associated costs and time considerations, if applicable?

The RFI should make it apparent if proposed resolutions to the issue in question require additional time and materials to resolve.

The RFI should not be used as a channel to submit a proposal, but it can state that extra time and materials will be required as a change order.

Is the RFI valid? 

Finally, is the Request For Information a reasonable request?

The RFI manager is responsible for either answering the request, if possible, or directing the requestor to the information they seek contained within the contract documents, drawings, and specifications.

In many cases, the party submitting the RFI has not done due diligence. This is a colossal waste of time, energy, and financial resources. 

Estimates are that unjustifiable RFIs on a typical large-scale project account for over $100,000.00 in administration costs.

construction RFIs

After reviewing the RFI, the RFI manager is responsible for submitting it to the design team, tracking the RFI while it’s in process, and then distributing the response.

Although processing times vary, RFIs typically take 10-14 days to process in most circumstances. 

When are construction RFIs submitted? 

Requests For Information (RFIs) occur throughout the project lifecycle, from the design phase, through pre-construction, but most often during the construction phase. 

It’s not uncommon to have multiple RFIs in process simultaneously, with each RFI representing an area of work that cannot proceed without further direction. 

RFIs tend to multiply in relation to the project’s complexity, scope, and value. More extensive projects tend to produce more RFIs, but not always.

But what is always true is that RFI management plays a vital role in keeping construction projects moving forward. 

Copyright 2016 by the Associated Schools of Construction

How to avoid costly construction RFI delays?

The typical construction RFI costs over $1,000.00 in administration time to process.

That’s in addition to delays caused by indecision in the field, follow-ups, sifting through responses, and waiting for unanswered RFIs.

Research from multiple sources highlights construction software’s importance in creating, monitoring, and managing the RFI process for maximum efficiency and minimal cost. 

The Linarc collaborative construction project management system is built for this.

  • Standardized forms,
  • Single source of truth,
  • Real-time communication,
  • Project-wide visibility,
  • Instant messaging,
  • Contextual referencing, with 
  • Photos, mark-ups, drawings, and attachments within a mobile application.

Is your construction RFI process slowing you down?

Get a free, custom demonstration of the Linarc construction management system today.

Linarc is a cloud-based project management system built solely for collaborative, data-driven construction management.

  • Seamless collaboration
  • Easy file sharing
  • Common communication platform 
  • Real-time updates on project progress
  • …and so much more

Connect with a Linarc representative and see what the power of software technology can do to improve the productivity of your operation.

Connect – Build – Thrive with Linarc construction management software.