How to Deal with RFIs and Why They Matter

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Whether you like it or not, there are three inevitables in life: 1. It will rain as soon as you’ve washed your car; 2. You will have to file taxes; 3. Requests for Information (RFIs) will come your way. Although we can’t help you with the first two, we can offer professional tips on RFIs. In this blog, we’re looking at how to treat them, deal with them, and reduce their burden on you.

RFIs in Construction: Don’t Let Them Drive You Up the Wall

In simple terms, RFIs are a form of communication in construction. They seek a more detailed description of plans, drawings, and agreements. RFIs are part of a straightforward formal written process in which parties, for example, a contractor and designer, can clarify information gaps in construction documents.

Several years ago, Navigant Construction Forum conducted a survey of 1,362 projects around the world. They discovered that, on average, it took ten days to respond to an RFI, while the cost of each RFI was just over $1,000. Considering that, for each $1 million of construction worldwide, there is an average of 9.9 requests for information, the average project cost includes about $859,680 dedicated to RFIs. Who wouldn’t want to cut this expense down? Another surprising finding of this survey was that about one in four RFIs was never answered. Since RFIs are often the first point of clarification, if an RFI doesn’t get a response, the next step is starting a dispute. That’s why all parties of a construction project should have a full understanding of how RFIs work and how to use them properly.

RFIs come into play at different stages in the construction process. They may be used anytime, whether a project is going through the initial information-gathering phase or is in the final stages before completion. Usually, RFIs arise in these three situations: someone needs more information, to propose a material substitution, or to point out a deficiency. For example, a contractor or subcontractor will submit an RFI while the building is underway to clarify a drawing or specification with the designer or engineer. Contractors and suppliers may also use an RFI to document a concern about the specified materials or recommend a change or substitution of components.

Responding to a Construction RFI

Giving timely and complete answers to RFIs helps construction projects stay within deadlines and budget. Prompt responses also help ensure that the project is developing according to specifications. As we have already mentioned, failing to respond to an RFI can create legal liability. So, always reply, even if only to highlight where you provided a specific answer in the original documentation. Here are some professional tips that can help you fast-track RFIs.

1. Be a Good Reader

To avoid getting following RFIs, make sure you read through the details carefully before responding. No question should be left unanswered, so you need to be clear and specific in explaining every aspect you are asked about. For example, use statistics and other data instead of words like “most of”, “many”, etc.

2. Stay Ahead of RFIs

The first thing you should do before the project starts is to think about the delivery method. To reduce the unbearable number of RFIs, consider such methods as design-build and integrated project delivery that encourage collaboration and communication between all project parties so that the need for RFIs is dramatically reduced.

3. Provide Visuals

Responding to an RFI, you need to provide solutions and give examples, if possible. This is where visuals come into play. Attaching photos, drawings, and videos will contribute vastly to eliminating confusion about what exactly is being requested. Visuals always cut to the chase, and when combined with your detailed answers, will assure the RFI is addressed timely and accurately. Here’s where 360 Photo will be helpful since it creates visual prints of each step you take while going from one phase of a project to another.

From pre-construction to final project stages, it’s crucial to keep all stakeholders in the loop with regular updates, so you can make better, more informed decisions and decrease the amount of RFIs. One tool that can help you do that is 360 photo documentation providing you with high-quality photos of construction milestones and allowing you to keep track of day-to-day jobs done on-site. Contact us today to get a free demo of 360 Photo.

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