Tips to Streamline the RFI Process


By Michael S.,

RFIs are a huge part of any business that involves multiple parties working together on the same project and, as a contractor, those three letters are probably part of your everyday vocabulary.

A Request for Information (RFI) gives a contractor a formal means for clarifying any unclear project requirements or specifications with the project’s owner. The owner, usually through the design team or project manager, is required to provide a written response. The RFI process can be very useful if the requesters and responders adhere to some basic rules. This information will help streamline the RFI process for both project owners and requesters.

Tips for Owners, Project Managers, and Design Teams

  1. Develop a formal RFI procedure and outline the process, guidelines, and requirements in the original contract documents. This ensures that everyone is on the same page as to when and how to utilize the RFI.
  2. If at all possible, use an RFI tracking and monitoring system. This will help ensure that RFIs are seen by the correct people, documented, and processed more efficiently.
  3. Reduce the number of unnecessary RFIs through the use of document audits or peer reviews on your original design documents, as recommended by the American Institute of Architects.
  4. Whenever possible, have meetings prior to construction that allow the contractor to review documents and ask questions up front. This should also reduce the number of unnecessary RFIs during the project.
  5. Do not answer RFIs with questions. If you need further clarification of the question or issue posed, do so outside the RFI process.
  6. Be sure to document all communications and conclusions.

Tips for Contractors Requesting the RFI:

  1. Don’t procrastinate—initiate an RFI as soon as the need arises. Waiting may cause backlog and could make the problem worse.
  2. Each RFI should only have one question. Separate questions need separate RFIs.
  3. Include photos or videos whenever possible to more clearly identify the problem.
  4. Always provide reference to drawings, specifications, or sketches in your RFI so it can be understood and quickly addressed.
  5. Include surrounding details in your RFI. Remember that the responder was not necessarily present for conversations between the contractors on the issue.
  6. If you have a suggested solution to the issue, include that along with any impact on the schedule and cost.
  7. Don’t overuse the RFI process. There are often easier, quicker ways to answer a question. Abide by the guidelines established in the original contract documents.

By adhering to these simple tips, you can streamline the RFI process and get clarification more quickly and efficiently. Everyone benefits from a simple and smooth RFI process, which frees up more resources to get actual work done, increasing efficiency and saving on downtime. 


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