Requests For Information, more frequently referred to as RFIs, are a highly valuable means of communicating with project owners and designers. These inquiries litter the inboxes and mailboxes of every construction project so people can get all the information they need to complete the work.
Architects and designers largely do an amazing job at capturing everything construction crews need in order to complete every part of the project. But no matter how detailed they try to be, when contractor specialists in their respective fields examine them, they’ll invariably have questions. And so an RFI is drafted so they can get clarity on parts of the design that aren’t clear or need more explanation.
RFIs serve a critical role in the workflow of construction projects, but managing them can quickly grow cumbersome. It’s estimated for every one million dollars in the contract, there will be around 10 RFIs. Each of these take around 10 days to be responded to, and over 20% of them are never given a formal response at all.
Beyond being the cause of immediate delays, they are the precursor to contract changes that can alter the scope or specification of the contracted work. The most diligent contractors may submit an excess of RFIs in order to protect themselves if questions come up later. Each RFI can cause work stoppage or a slow down, until the contractor gets the information they need to proceed.
RFIs happen during many parts of the construction process, but they’re most common during the bidding process and at the beginning of the project. Some of the main reasons they’re introduced are to get more details on the following:
- Design coordination – Architects, engineers, and owners/developers need to get clarifications on the designs, architectural plans, drawings, and other documents.
- Construction coordination- Project managers, foremen, and construction managers need clarifications on procedures, schedules, and construction site safety.
- Construction issues – Problems that arise when a contractor finds fundamental issues with the design, such as it being impossible to build as depicted. These may include errors or omissions in the plan drawings or specifications.
- Design alterations – Whenever there is an improvement or correction in the initial design.
- Clarification in design – Project managers or foremen seeking more information for a better understanding of the design.
- Sequencing – Change of order of tasks due to changes in availability of materials, resources, or construction site access.
- Material change – Builders requesting replacement of materials specified in the design document, such as if the originals become unavailable, or they have an alternate recommendation.
- Site conditions – The design conflicts with the actual condition and measurements on the site.
When any of these situations arise, it could affect the scope, manner of work, or schedule. So the contractor will submit a Request For Information to find the right path forward.
One of the key benefits to using construction management software like Linarc is its world-class RFI management tool. By submitting all RFIs through Linarc it expedites the process and streamlines the communications. Plans can be marked up with comments so all can follow the discussion in real-time. Linarc includes extensive document editing tools including being able to draw, circle, highlight, add images, and text.
Communications sent within Linarc include contextually relevant information so both parties can review the same document. For example, if a contractor is reviewing the plans and has a question about it, when they submit their question, the plans will be included to the project managers. This keeps the conversation on track for a quick resolution so everyone can keep pressing forward. All relevant parties are invited to join Linarc and in turn receive notifications immediately.
The RFI process in Linarc follows a systematized process including:
- Draft – The RFI has been created and saved, but is yet to be routed to the General Contractor.
- Routed to General Contractor – The RFI has been reviewed by the Project Manager of the Subcontractor and forwarded to the Project Manager for the General Contractor. Its current status is marked as ‘In Progress/Open.’
- Assigned – The General Contractor has assigned the RFI to a contractor, subcontractor, company of consultants, architects, or engineers.
- In Progress/Open – The RFI is waiting for the reply from the responsible entity.
- Answered – The RFI has been answered by the responsible person/company and routed back to the General Contractor.
- Review – The RFI is awaiting review by the General Contractor.
- Completed – The General Contractor has approved and closed the RFI.
As you can see, using construction management software to hasten each step can greatly speed up the process. Every part of the review and approval can be completed as soon as the decision makers have a chance to review it.