What is an RFI and how to use RFIs effectively

30. April 2021 Written by David Lawrence
Skjermbilde 2021 04 30 kl 13 37 02

An RFI is used in the construction industry when a project's construction documentation lacks information that is required to proceed with any given scope of work.


An RFI is used in the construction industry when a project's construction documentation lacks information that is required to proceed with any given scope of work.

An RFI raised by the general contractor that has been answered by the client, or architect, and distributed to all stakeholders, is generally accepted as a change to the scope of work, unless further approval is required for costs associated with the change.

It is common and accepted practice for a subcontractor or supplier to use an RFI to state his/her concern related to the omission or misapplication of a product, and seek further clarification of the building owner's intended use or their official acceptance of the specified product. It is also acceptable for the subcontractor to use an RFI to call attention to an inferior product that may not meet the building owner's needs, and use his/her expertise to recommend the better/correct product.

Abuse of the RFI Process

There are circumstances where the use of RFIs is abused, and simply creating paper to justify unwarranted claims, such as issuing an RFI when the information is clearly shown on the construction documents. In this case, either the person reading the drawings is working outside of the scope of their capability, or the intent is to generate paper to help support what might otherwise be an unjustifiable claim. Overuse of RFIs will delay project progress and tie up both admin and tech recourses in processing RFIs.

RFI Management

RFIs were for some years tracked using spreadsheets, but during the early 21st century many companies started using various construction management applications, including document management platforms, to manage RFI processes. These help construction professionals save time, reduce costs, deliver error-free projects and improve quality.

However, the amount of recourses spent to resolve an RFI is still too high, and there is a need for collaboration tools for effective sub-to-sub communication on a less formal format. The average total cost per RFI review and response is $1 080 (Source: www.constrictionprogress.org).

Enabling site workers

User friendly collaboration tools must be made available on site, for all project participants to reduce administration and technical reviews, by director questions directly to the source of information, only monitored by the general contractor.

Picture annotations, easy navigation in BIM models and document references must therefore be made available on smart phones for all participants, without thresholds like high user licenses.




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