In construction, a request for information (RFI) is a communication sent between teams to clarify project items — items like a spec missing from a blueprint, e.g. RFIs could be sent to or from project owners, construction managers, contractors, architects, engineers, and suppliers.
A construction management platform like Fieldwire makes the RFI process seamless, allowing for on-the-fly updates to plans — you can expect to wait minutes for an RFI to come back with what you need to get your work done, not days or weeks.
Construction RFI process flow chart
In the bad old days, RFIs were just so many sheets of paper — forms that were filled out by hand, delivered to someone who had to figure out where they should go, then sent on to the person who would know the answer, who takes their time responding…
Eventually, the requested information got relayed back to whoever’s on-site managing the work, who slip-sheeted what came back by stapling it into the plan that was unclear in the first place. And then they got back to building.
And while you’ve likely moved on from loose-leaf paper and file cabinets, the mishmash of emailing Word docs as attachments and tracking outstanding questions in Excel is still pretty inefficient.
Construction management platforms for RFIs
Use a construction management app like Fieldwire to fill out RFI forms while on-site, getting the answers you need in real-time from anyone, anywhere. Fieldwire’s RFIs are customizable, standardized, and easy to create and answer — saving everyone’s time and reducing costs.
Yes, you can download and fill this RFI template (PDF) out — you can even print it out and fill out by hand! But wouldn’t it make more sense to create, manage, and track your RFIs with a construction management platform that will do the work for you?
When to send an RFI
Because it’s so easy to communicate RFIs in Fieldwire, you should send one whenever you have a clarifying question about a plan or work order that you need to document. Some examples:
Missing, incomplete, or conflicting specs
E.g., “Door height discrepancy in plans A1.02 and detail 2/A3.04”
E.g., “Footing clash with existing pipe”
Unavailable or unsuitable materials (AKA request for substitution)
E.g., “Toilet made of cardboard, replace with porcelain?”
New or previously unknown information about the site
E.g., “Human skeleton unearthed during dig”
Change request from owner, designer, or contractor
E.g., “The client requests to change the carpet color to navy blue in room 201”
Seemingly incorrect spec
E.g., “Entry opening marked as 8’’ — should that be 8 feet?”
E.g., “Orchestra pit in opera hall is tiny, is this right?”
When not to send an RFI
Occasionally, your contract will include the information you’re looking for — and possibly instructions for handling questions like the ones you have — so make sure you read it thoroughly before shooting off a bunch of RFIs.
You may also be tempted to create an RFI for CYA, maybe to justify an oops. Don’t use an RFI for this.
And an RFI is not for chit-chat. No RFIs for lunch truck suggestions, please.
How to write an RFI
How to communicate RFIs isn’t always going to be up to you, but generally, you should expect to provide the following details when you submit one:
Question/description: That which you’re seeking
Dates: When you’re asking and when you need an answer by
Referenced drawings/specifications: The plans needing clarification
Impact: Estimated effects on schedule
Suggestion: Yours, if you have one for addressing the question
Photos/video/files: A picture’s worth, like, a billion words, so attach a pic
Best practices for RFIs
As stupid-simple as filling out an RFI in Fieldwire is, there are still a few things to keep in mind to maximize your chances of getting the answer you need.
- One RFI, one issue
- Provide context
- Ask for what you want (a list? a number?) and when you want it by — if you have no idea what the answer would look like, then ask a better question
- Use language and terms anyone could understand
- Have a suggested solution? Include it
- Track (easy if you use Fieldwire, duh)
- Use a standard form (like Fieldwire’s) with standardized numbering and tagging (ditto)
- Prioritize anything that could delay the schedule, threaten anyone’s safety, or cost a shit-ton
- Think ahead — ask the questions that are high priority ASAP, but don’t barrage your intended recipient with hundreds of P1s
- Along those lines, bundle similar asks
- Be nice
What you get back from an RFI
Files: The answers in the form of an updated drawing or spec sheet
Traditionally, RFIs were considered asshole pains, associated with delays, increased costs, and finger-pointing. With a construction management platform like Fieldwire, communication amongst and between teams on-site and wherever else they happen to be is easy, instant, and tracked, so RFIs may not always be necessary. But when they are, Fieldwire makes them less annoying, hopefully.