In commercial construction, an average of about 270 RFIs will be exchanged for a one-year construction project and up to about 1400 RFIs for a construction project lasting for five years. Looking at these statistics, it is clear RFIs (Requests for Information) are an important part of the construction process.

Tips for Managing the RFI Process in the Field

RFI in construction management is an official form that’s written by a general contractor or sometimes a subcontractor to the architect, or engineer, or to clarify any information that pertains to (but is not limited to) design drawings, specifications, standards, and contracts.

At this point, RFIs sound simple after all, it’s just written communication, how hard could it be? To answer that, in a study by Navigant Consulting, it takes about 10 days to read, analyze and respond to an RFI and costs about $1080 per RFI. Too many inefficient RFIs can take a toll on the company’s bottom line, and in the worst-case scenario, the RFI process can be abused and be a vehicle for legal claims.

So, how do you manage the RFI process in construction, so it does what it’s supposed to do in the first place to mitigate risk and improve efficiency? Here are some actionable suggestions that owners and contractors can use how to improve the RFI process in the field.

(Top 10) Best Tips on How to Improve the RFI Process out in the Field

  1. Define RFI’s in the Contract

This suggestion might be more applicable to the owners than project managers, we decided to put it here anyway. Because RFI’s can be used as a basis for legal claims, it’s best to nip this in the bud by incorporating definitions that pertain to RFI and the RFI process that will be used in the General Terms and Conditions of the contract. Defining these terms will make sure that everybody is aware of what is expected as well as the consequences.

  1. Use an RFI Construction Management Software

Using RFI construction products like tracker software like Procore will help streamline the RFI process in the following ways:

  • Provide a centralised hub for the team members to keep track of the RFIs
  • Standardise the RFI process by providing a template with all the relevant information that needs to be filled out
  • Improves RFI monitoring, and tracking as well as RFI impact on the project
  1. Define the RFI Process

Make sure that you have a well-defined RFI process in place in your company. More importantly, make sure that everybody who is involved in the RFI process is well-versed and trained in the process.

  1. Nip the RFI’s in the Bud

A good RFI is no RFI at all. Encouraging discussion and collaboration among architects, contractors, and other trade partners as early as the design process can avoid a few RFI altogether. BIM (Building Information Modelling) can also help nip whatever questions and concerns the parties might have.

  1. Ask One Question per RFI

In order for a construction management RFI to be efficient, it is key that you ask one well-worded specific question. You can accompany it with sub-questions that pertain to the main question, but the RFI must have only ONE question. Making an RFI with many questions can cause confusion and insufficient clarity for everyone involved.

Tips for Managing the RFI Process in the Field

  1. Attach Visuals to Your RFI

Sometimes, there will be times when the question that we want to ask gets lost in translation. To prevent this from happening, include photos, drawings, and even videos with your RFI’s so you can be sure that everything is understood. As the old saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

  1. Write Well Written RFI Titles

When you write an RFI, make sure that you provide a clear, descriptive, and concise title.  If you write Generic titles, it will provide no context on what the entire RFI is all about. To illustrate instead of writing Paint Color On Ceiling Beams, you can be more descriptive and say Mahogany Brown A0078 on Ceiling Beams, 5th Floor Confirmation of Paint Color. A few more words into the title make a big difference.

  1. When you Receive an RFI, Check it Thoroughly

When an RFI has been answered and has been returned to you, the question that you’ve written has been answered well. The responsible person should have been able to fully answer the question or have provided a clear, concise solution or recommendation. If you are not satisfied with the answer, contact the responsible person and send the RFI back.

  1. Organise the RFI’s

Part of a good RFI process is the inclusion of a way to track the RFI. It can come in several forms. If your firm still uses paper RFI, make sure that you have a place to organise it, as well as a log to keep you informed on the status of the RFIs. If you use a spreadsheet to keep track of the RFIs, this log should contain at least the following among other things: RFI name, RFI send date and RFI answer date. Make sure that this log is updated as often as possible.

A good idea would be to invest in an RFI tracking software like Procore to keep track of your RFIs.

  1. Forward the RFI to the Relevant People

Forward the RFI not only to the responsible person but to people who will be affected by it as well. For example, an RFI meant for the construction engineer doesn’t affect just that team, but might have some impact on the design team as well. Remember a construction project is a team effort.

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