What is an RFI (Request for Information), How to Write One

An RFI (Request for Information) is an essential tool for seeking clarification and solving questions about project plans and specifications in the construction industry. It is the formal way for project teams to ask questions, clarify doubts, and address issues that may arise during construction. RFIs facilitate communications between multiple stakeholders for any construction project, leading to successful outcomes and timely delivery.

What is an RFI (Request for Information) In Construction?

As mentioned, RFIs are needed to ensure that projects move forward without any surprises or unforeseen blockers. It allows all parties involved, such as architects, engineers, contractors, trade contractors, and suppliers, to ask questions and seek clarification about project details.

What is the Purpose of an RFI?

The true purpose behind an RFI is to ensure that the project plans and activities are happening according to the initial estimates. 

An RFI is needed when information from clients, designers, or other stakeholders is insufficient, unclear, or requires more detail. RFIs may be submitted because of substitutions or modifications, clarifications or additional information requests, construction issues, and weak spots.

They are vital in construction workflows between teams because whether the communication is written or verbal, it can be interpreted in multiple ways and lead to issues. In almost any project, questions will ultimately arise, information may be overlooked, and the need for crystal-clear information may arise.

RFI Process and Example

The RFI (Request for Information) process follows a series of steps to ensure clear communications and efficient processes. The first thing that happens is that a party identifies the need for clarification and creates the RFI document. This document tends to include details such as the project name, reference number, and the requested information. 

Once drafted, the RFI is sent to the relevant party, often the project manager, for review and approval. Once approved, the RFI is shared with the appropriate stakeholders, including contractors and subcontractors, for response. Once the response arrives, the project team reviews the information and acts to address the inquiries raised if need be.

For example, consider a scenario where a project involves installing HVAC equipment. The contractor may submit an RFI to the architect, asking for clarification on the required specifications for the equipment, including dimensions, weight, and installation details. The RFI document, in return, would outline these specific aspects and provide context about why there is a need for this information to begin with. Upon review and approval, the architect will send the RFI to the relevant parties, such as the supplier, structural engineer, or subcontractor, who can finally provide the requested information. The process is excellent to avoid any issues and allows project teams to ensure the setup is successful, avoiding potential delays or errors.

Just like in the public sector, where citizens can send a request for information to the government to oversee the procurement process, the RFI becomes an essential tool in the construction industry that improves transparency for all parties involved.

How Does an RFI Compare With RFQ and RFP?

In the construction industry, RFIs serve a unique purpose compared to RFQs (Request for Quotation) and RFPs (Request for Proposal). As discussed above, RFIs are used to gather information and clarify project details, address uncertainties, and ensure clear communication among stakeholders. 

RFQs, on the other hand, are submitted asking for price quotes or bids from potential suppliers or subcontractors. Typically, RFQs specify the type of work, scope of work, and requested pricing information, helping contractors and subcontractors send better and more competitive bids based on criteria that make sense for decision-makers. 

In contrast, RFPs are documents used when the project scope is too broad and requires multiple contractors, subcontractors, or vendors’ proposals to ensure quality and due diligence. RFPs generally outline the project’s requirements, objectives, and evaluation criteria. On some occasions, they may also include technical specifications and pricing standards. 

While the main focus of RFIs is to find the correct information to align multiple parties, RFQs and RFPs focus on procurement and selecting the most suitable contractor, subcontractor, or vendor for the project.

How to Respond to an RFI

To respond to an RFI, you usually start by carefully reviewing the document, gathering relevant information, and providing clear answers to each question without overextending. Sometimes, for more complex projects, you may need to collaborate with experts, abide by specific formatting standards, and submit them on time.

Generally, an RFI includes the following information:

  • Project name 
  • Location
  • RFI number assigned to the project
  • RFI title + brief description
  • Date of RFI submission + response deadline
  • Details of the requesting party: name, title, company, and contact information
  • Details of the responding party: name, title, company, and contact information
  • Inquiry description. Starting with the question and referencing the relevant specification, plan, or drawing related.
  • Format and deadline for the response
  • Details of any attachments, such as pictures, screenshots, or invoices
  • Sometimes, RFIs may also include an optional section for cost updates

Keep in mind that the main objective of RFIs is to facilitate effective communication with project stakeholders. This means that the more precise and thorough your response is, the easier it will be for all parties to reach transparency and understanding and work on future projects.

How to Manage an RFI Process Through eSUB

We are the construction software built for subcontractors to help them track RFIs swiftly. Instead of going through the traditional and tedious manual process of handling RFIs, facing delays, and potentially leaving money at the table, with eSUB cloud you can:

  • Eliminate paper documents and keep your RFIs organized and secure 
  • Streamline operations by using our RFI and submittal tracking functions. 
  • Save thousands of dollars of wasted time per RFI.
  • Save lots of time required to custom build RFI word or excel documents.
  • Transition from simple field notes to comprehensive RFIs seamlessly. 
  • Get alerts on RFI status updates and ensure timely reviews and approvals from all stakeholders.

Switch to eSUB Cloud, the platform that helps subcontractors save time, reduce errors, and improve communications. 

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