How to Write an Effective RFI
As beautifully drawn as some construction plans are, when brought to application in the field problems are inevitable. The more complex the project the more frequent, extensive, and costly the questions.
In this article, we will discuss best practices for writing a clear RFI that provides answers that are more timely and favorable to our projects.
Definition & Purpose
A Request For Information (RFI) is a document used by the construction industry to ask for further clarification on lacking/contradicting information found in official construction documents (plans, specifications, details...etc).
Putting these questions in a formal RFI provides a documented response that keeps all parties, from the owner to the trades in the field, on the same page.
1.) Provide reference material:
You will make everyone's job easier if you provide a common starting point in the form of an already existing document. Typically this will be an excerpt or detail from the plans.
Giving a common starting point for everyone will provide clearer context to any questions or additional information you provide in an RFI.
After providing this common starting point, think of additional supporting material you can provide to further assist in understanding and resolving issues.
- Make a call first (some problems can be solved verbally and documented in an RFI)
- Pictures (Pictures really are worth a thousand words)
- Videos (This is getting to be an easier medium to provide info in this day and age)
- Sketch (Adobe PDF is a great method for marking up drawings, but a scanned hand sketch is good too)
2.) Provide a suggested solution:
The easier it is for the architect and/or engineer to approve the RFI, the more likely you are to receive a quick more favorable response close to your desired outcome.
If you only type a quick question and force them to do all legwork in figuring out what the problem and solution, you will wait much longer and are very likely to get a response that is not to your liking.
Make everyone's life easier by providing an acceptable solution that all parties can understand and agree upon.
3.) Ask a question:
Since we are "Requesting Information" remembering to ask a question should be simple. However, when we are working the closest to a problem the questions can seem obvious to us and be much less apparent to others.
We need to remember that we have been dealing closely with the problem and must get the rest of the team up to speed with what is going on in the field. If we send a vague email describing a problem in the field and no clear question, it becomes impossible to understand much less provide an answer.
Make it a point to end every RFI with a very clear question so that there is no confusion about what is being asked. Again, the simpler it is for all parties to understand the problem, the quicker and clearer a solution can be provided.
Here is an old example of a previous project RFI:
As contractors and project managers, the burden of preventing project delays falls to us. Proactively catching and clarifying confusion will be one of the most important skills we can bring to our teams to allow them to make more money, experience fewer delays, and perform work to its highest possible quality.
Blessings In Your Endeavors,