Communication is paramount in commercial construction. The stakes are high. Budgets are tight. Timelines are even tighter. Ensuring full coordination is the only way to achieve formidable project goals.
One way to make sure goals are achieved is by having all questions answered, and this, of course, includes paperwork. While no one likes more paperwork, maintaining detailed records creates a historical sequence of the project and is something you can point to as needed down the road.
A Request for Information (RFI) is one such document that communicates to the design team, architect, engineer, owner, and other stakeholders – any information that needs further clarification. This could include a discrepancy in plans, a conflict between vendors, a need for alternative materials, or other change.
With an RFI, you present the facts of the situation and someone needs to decide on the right thing to do.
Why is an RFI Important?
Based on information you get back from the RFI, timelines may need to be adjusted and/or costs may need to be allocated to it. Usually, an RFI will create a change order, and the RFI serves as supporting documentation to the change order.
For example, if asked why you need more time for the project, you can point to the RFI that says, “This wall needs to be taken down and put up over there, which adds 4 days to the schedule.”
Who is Responsible for RFIs?
Construction is a collaborative effort. There is generally the owner, designer and contractor relationship with checks and balances between the three. While the architect is initially responsible for ensuring the project is coordinated and buildable, things can be missed or changed when the design moves from paper to 3 dimensions.
Then the responsibility falls on the contractor to identify any conflicts and prepare the RFI in a timely manner. Your contractor should be seasoned enough to see and provide a solution before work even starts (it never looks good to find out half-way through laying the foundation that it doesn’t work). Any needed changes would be coordinated through an RFI and tracked with an RFI log.
Once an RFI is presented, receiving a prompt response by the design team is essential to keep the project moving. There should always be a stated timeline for a response (typically 7 days). It is equally important that the owner understands the ramifications associated with the change – be it costs or time.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to RFI Logs
As the project progresses and the job goes through development, you may come to the end and realize there is x amount of time and x amount of money needed to finish the project.
Without the documented history of the project, including RFIs, change orders and plan logs, you could run into issues if there is a discrepancy between where you are and where you intended to be. The RFI log then becomes a powerful tool for looking back to see how you wound up where you are.
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