RFIs in Construction: Definition and How To Create One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 24, 2022 | Published February 8, 2021

Updated August 24, 2022

Published February 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Using a request for information (RFI) in construction helps provide clarity on any complex or vague details throughout the construction process. There are different RFIs contractors will submit at certain stages of the construction process. You should be able to identify each RFI to provide a prompt and clear response without pausing the project for an extended period. 

In this article, we review what an RFI in construction is, list the different types of construction RFIs and explain how to create your own.

What is an RFI in construction?

An RFI in construction is a document that contractors or designers will submit to request clarification on any information gaps in certain construction materials. There are many moments during the construction project process when someone may submit an RFI. One of the most common instances is typical during the bidding phase, when the project owner may send a request for a proposal. Contractors may then request clarification on the project's details or budgets by sending an RFI.

Contractors or subcontractors may also choose to submit an RFI during the building phase to gain clarity from designers on a project's specifications or drawings. They may also submit an RFI when suggesting ideas for different construction components, requesting more information about the intended use of the project or asking for additional materials to finish construction tasks.

Related: How To Write a Request for Information (With an Example)

Types of RFIs in construction

The type of RFI you use depends on which stage of the construction process you're currently in. Since contractors may have to halt construction to submit an RFI and wait for the response, using the correct RFI at the right time can prevent any potential delays, conflicts or significant expenses. The different types of RFIs in construction include:

  • Material change: The contractor may review the materials listed in the construction documents and use this RFI to request different materials they believe are better suited for the project.

  • Change in method or process: Contractors use this RFI to request a change in installation techniques or specified buildings.

  • Timing and phasing: If the RFI is experiencing any constraints on labor or construction activities, they may use this RFI to request a change in the sequence of construction activities.

  • Site conditions: After reviewing the site conditions, contractors may submit an RFI to inform designers that the actual conditions significantly differ from the descriptions listed in their construction documents, so they may seek additional clarity to resolve this.

  • Design coordination: With this RFI, different participants within the project typically communicate, coordinate and organize the design and other documents among one another.

  • Construction coordination: Contractors use these RFIs to request to sort, coordinate and organize all construction-related safety items, schedules and procedures.

  • Value engineering: Contractors submit this RFI to request changes to the project to enhance quality, reduce costs or improve efficiencies.

  • Utility conflict: If contractors notice utility lines, like power wires or water pipes, in the way of their construction site, they'll request their removal by submitting this RFI.

  • Incomplete plans or specs: Some construction plans or specifications may contain errors or incomplete details, so contractors can use this RFI to ask for additional clarification.

  • Deleted scope: Contractors may notice work requested in the construction documents that they believe are unnecessary or time-consuming, so they'll use this document to request the deletion of certain tasks.

  • Design clarification: After reviewing construction materials and designs, contractors may have difficulty understanding certain details and how they relate to the specific project, so they'll request this RFI for more guidance.

  • Design change: A contractor may notice a mistake in a design and will use this RFI as a request to revise this design and correct the error.

  • Constructability issues: When the contractor reviews the construction materials, they may notice a detail or overall design that seems infeasible or impossible to construct, so they'll submit this RFI for clarity or suggestions.

Related: What Are the Different Types of Construction Jobs?

What to include in an RFI

Your RFI should help the designer, engineer or architect clearly understand your request so they can easily provide you with a quick and informative answer. Elements to include in a great RFI are:

  • Project name

  • RFI number and title

  • Brief description

  • Date submitted and proposed deadline for a response

  • Requesting party's name, title of the company and contact information

  • Description of the project's request, starting with the opening questions and a reference to the specifications, drawings or plans

  • Responding party's name, title of the company and contact information

  • Additional space for the response and the date of response

  • Attachments, like invoices, photos or screenshots and a description of each

  • A section for cost or construction changes

Related: Learn About Being a Construction Project Manager

How to create an RFI

To ensure your RFI doesn't cause the project to pause construction for too long, provide enough clarity in your request to ensure designers or engineers fully understand what you need. Follow these steps to create an effective RFI:

1. Define the problem

Be sure to read the contract and construction details carefully and write down any unclear or problematic issues you find that could affect the project's quality. After writing your questions down, review the documents one last time to ensure the information you requested isn't available. Locate the type of RFI you need to use and provide a clear description of the problems found. Try to complete this phase as soon as you receive the construction materials to keep the construction process as efficient as possible.

Related: RFPs vs. RFIs: Differences and Why Companies Use Them

2. Present ideas for solutions

When you submit problems with the construction documents, it's typically more convenient and efficient to present your ideas for possible solutions. Use straightforward and detailed language as you list your potential solutions within the RFI. This can help speed up the process, as this allows the designer, architect or engineer to quickly approve your idea rather than taking time to develop one on their own.

Related: Glossary of 64 Construction Terms and Definitions

3. Be clear about the response you prefer

To ensure you receive an effective and useful answer from designers or project owners, clearly detail the type of response you'd like to get. You can do this by providing a list of the exact information you need. This allows the recipients to clearly understand what you're asking of them. They can then quickly provide you with the information you need to move forward and complete the project.

Related: Construction Management: Functions and Phases

4. Provide additional details for more context

Carefully review the information you've provided in the document to ensure project owners or designers understand your request. If any of your questions seem unclear, provide additional details for more context on the situation or problem. Have colleagues or other employees on the project review it as well to ensure it's clear and easy to understand. Ask them to provide suggestions for any details you may have missed.

Related: How To Perform Construction Cost Estimating in 4 Steps

5. Include attachments for more reference

Another great way to add more clarity to your request is to include attachments like photos or other media. Other elements you can add include documents that describe the problem in greater detail, drawings of the project or construction site or photos of the site and materials to help your readers gain additional clarity. This allows project owners or designers to have enough information to easily understand the problem and provide logical decisions without delaying the project.

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