Information is key to the success of any construction project, but not just any information will do. The information must be timely, accurate, and complete. This is why you should have clear procedures for submitting requests for information (RFI’s) to the owners and contractors you work for on every construction project. Submission of a construction RFI will not only help you better understand the work, but will also protect you if disputes arise.
Submit an RFI Anyway
The most important thing to know about a construction RFI is to never assume anything. Even if you have years of experience and think you know the answer to a question about missing information in a bid package or request for quote, submit an RFI about it anyway. Most construction contracts put the burden on you to understand your scope of work completely and prevents any changes in price or schedule arising from your incorrect assumptions. The old grade school adage can be adapted for the construction industry to read: The only bad RFI is one that is never requested.
Have Written Proof
Another important thing to remember about RFI’s is they must be in writing. When a dispute arises about an issue you raised in an RFI, you will have written proof you raised the issue and the owner or contractor failed to clarify or gave you incorrect information to rely on. Written RFI’s can also be used to support your change order requests to show how circumstances have changed since your bid requiring a change in price or schedule.
Your Opportunities to Formally Submit RFI’s
You will likely have several opportunities to formally submit RFI’s while reviewing the data in the bid package or request for quote you receive. This is the time to ask for as much information as you can to clarify the requirements and details of your scope of work. RFI’s during the bidding process will also establish what information is missing and when you can expect to receive it. Late engineering, design, testing, or other information will affect both your schedule and pricing. If the response to your RFI’s are not clear, submit another RFI asking for clarification. If you still don’t receive sufficient information, you may need to add additional float time into your schedule or factor in the potential effect on costs in your pricing.
The Importance of a Timely Submission
Your obligation to submit RFI’s does not end when the work begins. Timely submitting RFI’s is important! As soon as you become aware of information you need during the work, submit a written RFI. Don’t assume you will be given the information when you get to that point in the project. Your contract likely has time limits on when you can request a change order based on the day you became aware a change may be needed. If you submit a request for a change after the deadline, it will be denied and you will be responsible for the increased time and/or cost.
Regardless of whether you receive a response or what response you receive, you are creating a record showing you attempted to resolve an issue before it became a problem. If your RFI asks the specs on an item and later you’re accused of providing defective work or goods, you can defend yourself by showing you asked for the correct information. Timely submitted RFI’s will not only improve the performance of your work, but will also protect you when things go wrong. To learn more about RFI’s and how they can improve your business, you can register for the upcoming live webinar by Hal Emalfarb and Tom Salzeron April 10, 2019.