The cost of RFIs and best practices for construction professionals

construction worker

RFI for construction or Request for Information is an important part of the construction process. An RFI in project management is an official form that’s often written by a general contractor or sometimes a subcontractor to ask for details anytime within the construction stages. An RFI is written to clarify any information that pertains to (but not limited) design drawings, specifications, standards, and contracts. A well written RFI can bridge gaps and inconsistencies and keep the construction process smooth and flowing.

The Impact of RFI’ In Project Management

RFI’s in construction management sound simple in definition, you might think that it’s just written communication, but in reality, RFI’s are anything but simple. RFI’s are time-consuming, detail-driven can cost a lot, can take a toll on a company’s bottom line, and as construction professionals would mildly put it, a pain in the proverbial behind.

How does RFI’s impact your company in terms of time and money? The answer can be found in a study done by Navigant. They made an analysis of over 1300 construction projects all over the world that had over 1 million RFI’s and found the following results:

  • It cost an average of $1080 per RFI to read, write, and respond to,
  • Each RFI takes an average of about 10 days to read, analyze and respond.

With these findings in mind, statistics show that in a one-year construction project, there will be an average of 270 RFI’s and can go up to 1400 for a five-year construction project. This would cost the company’s bottom line anywhere from $290,000 to $1,500,000 per project just on RFI’s alone.

A project management RFI that’s not written effectively can take a toll on a company’s bottom line, as well as result to confusion, schedule delays, and in some cases even lawsuits.

Best Practices for RFI

A well written RFI can reduce miscommunication and keep the construction process smooth, here are some best practices that top construction project managers swear by:

Best Practice 1: Keep It Simple

There is an old saying that goes ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’, and the same rings true for RFI’s. In order for an RFI to be efficient, each RFI must contain only ONE specific question, with several questions that are related to the main topic. Research shows a quarter of the time, RFI’s goes unanswered, and this is one of the reasons why. You may write as many RFI’s as you want, but each RFI should only contain one well written and clear question so you can be sure it gets answered properly.

Best Practice 2: Include Visuals

A picture is worth a thousand words. And the odds are if you are in the construction business you have good spatial skills. Use that skill to include visuals in form of graphs, videos, etc. to your RFI so it’s easier to understand. Just make sure that you write a short explanation for the visuals that you include.

Best Practice 3: Write A Clear and Concise Title

When you create an RFI title, provide clear, concise, and descriptive titles. Avoid generic titles because it provides no context on what the RFI is about. For example, instead of writing Paint Color as your title, you can improve on it and can write Paint Color Canary Yellow G175- Confirmation of Paint Color for Ground Floor Reception Area. Don’t be shy on adjectives, and be as descriptive as possible.

Best Practice 4: Include A Deadline

Construction is all about schedules and timing. And especially, in a large construction project, every issue has its own schedule because ultimately one of the measures of project success in construction is delivering the project on time. The same applies to RFI

When you write an RFI, include a due date. If the RFI is not urgent and you have some time to wait for an answer, give the people who are supposed to answer it ample time to do so, so that they can adjust their schedule. However, if the RFI is an urgent matter, make sure that the due date reflects this. Putting due dates on your RFI’s in a way also gives respect to the people who will be answering this, so that they can take some time to dedicate to answering the RFI.