The Request for Information (RFI) in construction is drafted by the contractor to seek design clarifications during the execution phase. Here’s the guide to develop it
A construction project is inherently a complex system rich in structural, architectural, systems, relational, and contractual information. It is common, if not inevitable, for the contractor to face difficulties understanding parts of technical drawings during the execution phase.
To overcome this ‘information asymmetry,’ companies increasingly send Request for Information (RFI) to designers. Have you heard of it? Do you know what they are? Find out in this article!
What is a Request for Information (RFI) in the construction sector?
RFI stands for “Request for Information,” a crucial formal document for managing a construction project.
It is drafted by the executing company to seek clarifications and/or additional information about the project from the design professional.
The construction project may not cover every aspect of the construction process or may present gaps or ambiguities in drawings, explanatory relationships, or technical specifications. Therefore, stakeholders may submit RFIs for further clarification, to identify a problem, or propose an alternative design.
An RFI serves as an essential communication tool between parties involved during the execution phases, helping overcome issues that could cause delays and cost increases to the project.
Differences between RFI, RFQ, RFP, and RFT
Within the scope of a contract, there are various types of requests – RFP, RFT, RFQ, and RFI. Distinguishing them can be challenging. Here are the main differences briefly:
- a RFI, as seen, is a request for information, clarifying specific design aspects during project execution;
- an RFP, “Request for Proposal,” is a request for a proposal, used to suggest alternative or innovative solutions compared to the project, achieving the same projected goals;
- an RFQ, “Request for Quotation,” is a request for a quote to evaluate the costs and expenses of the requested (or proposed) design solutions;
- an RFT, “Request for Tender,” is used by contractors to submit an offer for goods, services, or works during a tender competition.
What are the main types of RFI used in construction?
Various types of RFIs are used in construction at different stages of the building process. The main ones include:
- general issues: addressing generic problems and can be sent by the executor to highlight or clarify general aspects;
- design clarifications: the contractor may want more information on the project or specific aspects of it, aiming to understand details and resolve ambiguities;
- design/execution coordination: requests for coordination between parties, referring to contract documents, schedules, plans, or safety procedures to implement;
- site conditions: after analyzing the site conditions, the executing company may inform the designer that they differ from those defined in the design phase;
- material changes: the executor, analyzing the specified materials, may request the use of different and more suitable materials;
- design process changes: inquiring about the need for changes to the project or design phases; this may be due to errors or the emergence of new issues not considered in the design phase;
- interference issues: during the execution of the work, harmful interferences may develop, and this RFI highlights them, seeking clarification.
Process and parties involved in the Request for Information in construction
The RFI process defines the formulation and response methods to questions and typically involves the two main parties: the contractor and the designer.
It can be outlined in three main phases:
- PHASE 1: the party seeking information issues an RFI. It is almost always the contractor seeking clarification on the design process or specific technical aspects, indicating a response deadline. This RFI is then sent to the project team;
- PHASE 2: the receiving party analyzes the request and responds before the deadline. They may include documents and design elaborations in the response to clarify doubts and may also request further details if the question is not adequately formulated;
- PHASE 3: if the RFI response is satisfactory, the issue is considered resolved. If not, a new RFI may be requested to clarify the previous one.
How to effectively write a construction RFI?
To write an effective construction RFI, strive to be as clear as possible. You are trying to present an issue, and it’s best to avoid creating additional confusion. In this regard, standardizing the RFI format is an excellent solution, including some important information in each template:
- RFI number, developed sequentially in each project;
- RFI creation date;
- RFI response deadline;
- reference code for the practice, varying for each project;
- details of the reference project;
- details of the requester, such as name, company, and contacts;
- details of the recipient, including name, company, address, and contacts;
- detailed description of the request and any issues;
- attachments such as photos, documents, invoices;
- free space for the recipient’s response.
If you proceed with creating standardized templates and structured RFIs, it will be easier for both parties to complete, reducing response and waiting times.
Tips for effectively developing the RFI process
To develop the RFI creation process effectively, first try to standardize the creation process, having ready-made templates for every emergency situation.
If you have doubts about certain executive details, send the RFI immediately: do not wait to submit your request. Consider that the subsequent response may not be immediate; it’s better to avoid prolonging the execution times significantly.
Make clear requests, contextualizing your question with attachments, detailed descriptions, and clear references to design elaborations. If possible, propose a solution.
Try to organize the data and information involved in the RFI creation process effectively by collaborating with stakeholders. For this, using a specific cloud platform for the construction sector can be very helpful. This platform allows you to manage, store, and share Request for Information (RFI) and offers several advantages, including:
- universal access: the cloud platform provides universal access to RFI-related information. Authorized users can access documents from anywhere with an internet-connected device, ensuring quick and seamless sharing;
- real-time collaboration: in construction, collaboration between different stakeholders is crucial. The cloud platform offers real-time collaboration tools, allowing project teams, subcontractors, consultants, and owners to work together on the same platform, improving communication and transparency;
- secure storage: RFIs contain crucial information for the project, and a dedicated cloud platform offers a secure solution to store and protect these documents;
- change tracking: RFIs may undergo changes during the project. A cloud platform tracks all changes made to documents, allowing for a complete audit and control of past revisions;
- error reduction: centralizing information reduces the chance of errors due to document dispersion. A cloud platform ensures everyone works with the most up-to-date and accurate information;
- time and resource savings: manual document management can be time and resource-intensive. A cloud platform automates many processes, reducing operational costs and improving overall efficiency.
For a secure and collaborative environment to effectively manage crucial information for the success of construction projects, use the free cloud platform dedicated to AEC professionals. You get 15 online applications and a 10 GB cloud space to efficiently manage your project, improve communication among involved parties, and minimize risks and delays.