What Are RFI’s?
When designers produce a set of documents outlining the specifications agreed upon by the owner and general contractor for a project, there are likely to be a few gaps. No project plan can account for every contingency that can occur in the construction process. When questions about how plans should be interpreted or unexpected details regarding design arise, a request for information (RFI) can be filed.
An RFI is a form, typically filed by the contractor, that requests additional information or clarity on a specific aspect of the architect’s design. This form is meant to be used early in the construction process to clear up issues and avoid incurring additional costs later.
The RFI is not without its issues. According to a recent article on the subject by the American Institute of Architects, RFI’s are occasionally used by contractors to delay the construction process, especially if the project has liquidated damages. Some contractors also use the RFI to replace a formal change order. The RFI is meant to be a means of seeking clarification, not a request to change a contract.
RFI’s are an important form of communication between contractors and design teams. However, they must be used properly to ensure that they don’t waste the time and money they were designed to save. To create better RFI’s, our team of Orlando construction lawyers have created this two-part series illustrating best practices. For more best practices, visit part two of this series.
Keep RFI’s Focused on Technical Issues
The RFI should seek technical clarity on design issues. It’s meant to be an educational tool. It should not be used to formally request design changes or to serve as a precursor to a change order.
Set Parameters for the RFI process at the Beginning of the Project
The best way to make sure that RFI’s are useful is to set parameters for them when the initial contract is created. Provisions for how an RFI should be structured, what information can be requested, and the time frame for which the design team must respond to RFI’s should be included when setting ground rules.
Include Lowest Cost Solutions in the RFI
When filing an RFI, you are likely requesting a clarification that could, ultimately, add to the cost of the project. This is where your expertise as a contractor comes in. As part of your RFI, include a couple of low-cost solutions, if applicable. In doing so, you are enhancing your reputation and helping to keep the project under budget.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.