What Is An RFI In Construction – A Thorough Guide

RFI In Construction

If a general contractor could count up all of the minutes they spent waiting for a response to an RFI (Request for Information) over their career, they might have discovered that they could have gone on vacation or perhaps built a few shopping plazas, which can be costly. According to research, an average project on a typical day may receive 15 to 20 RFIs for every $1 million in project value. This indicates that a $5 million project might cost approximately $100,000. RFIs are just requests for information, but if not handled appropriately, they are anything but straightforward. There are simple ways to successfully manage the RFI process, and we’ll explain how.

An RFI, or Request for Information, is a business process used in construction to request clarification on documentation, drawings, specifications, or other project details. RFIs are used to close information gaps, remove confusion, and document and discuss specific project decisions. Contracts frequently mandate reporting when errors, conflicts, or absences are detected, therefore, an RFI is a frequently used tool in the construction business. The RFI not only documents a process, but it is also a contractual requirement and a necessary step for project success.

A general contractor or subcontractor often issues a written RFI to obtain information from a design, engineering, or construction professional. An RFI often requests information that was not included (or was unclear) in the scope of the building contract.

rfi in construction

The Development RFI Procedure

The fundamental purpose of the RFI process is to reduce the need for time-consuming and costly corrective actions throughout the project’s life cycle. In Australia, these documents are also known as technical queries (TQ). RFI questions are typically requested and answered during the bidding process and/or during the project’s construction phase.

RFI Includes

RFIs can be broadly grouped into numerous categories. These classifications can be useful for the project team if wide categories are used in documents. This allows them to improve communication, focus the process on the planned and desired outcome, and direct the project team.

The categories are:

  • Design clarifications: disputes, inadequate plans, requirements.
  • Requests for design changes: frequently due to faults in building or sequencing concerns.
  • Substitution requests include value engineering, material availability, and convenience of use.
  • Constructability Issues
  • Different site conditions.

This list is not enough to explain what is an RFI in construction; now it is equally essential to understand what an RFI is not. Many goods are appropriate and necessary, yet they are best transmitted or communicated by other means. An RFI should not be utilized for routine communication, submittals, a safety plan or timetable, transmittals, or documentation purposes. RFIs should never be used to substitute verbal communication or as a form of commentary or positioning.

On the design side, RFIs should not be used to issue design papers that should have been included in the award (exceptions: design/build or fast-track design). According to the contract, RFIs may or may not be utilized as substitutes. If your contract specifies a distinct process, make sure the paperwork and process are followed. If not, use the RFI process and refer to the RFI as a ‘Request for Substitution’. Do not utilize the RFI to approve means and methods, or to resolve contract issues. It is also not a place to ask incorrect inquiries on product installation, as stipulated by the manufacturer. A request for information (RFI) is not the same as a construction change directive or change order request.

In terms of contract criteria, ensure that the construction team understands and adheres to the project’s general condition requirements. Federal and government contracts are particularly notable for contractually set processes that differ substantially from owner to owner.

The Most Significant Issues In The RFI Process

One of the primary issues with RFIs is the additional cost burden they can impose on a building project like commercial construction. It may not seem like much at first, but the delays, downtime, and costs associated with an RFI can accumulate over time. According to the American Council of Engineering Companies’ RFI outline, these requests consist of more than five steps, each with its own subcategory, actions, and responses. Furthermore, RFIs might involve a large number of team members, all of whom can slow down the process and cause further delays.

In 2013, Navigant Consulting did research on the impact of RFIs in construction, evaluating data from 1,362 projects worldwide and more than 1 million RFI responses. The survey discovered that responding to a single RFI costs construction businesses an average of $1,080. The project’s total cost could reach $859K. According to the research, RFIs can cause considerable backlogs since owners and project managers are forced to evaluate and respond to each individual RFI from contractors and subcontractors, noting the cost of each and using the process to make claims against owners.

Furthermore, more than one in every ten RFIs were deemed “unjustifiable,” whether owing to requests not explored by the design team, queries already answered in the original contract, or a focus on means and methods. Collectively, these unjustifiable RFIs cost around $113,400 per project.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding in the Navigant study is that nearly one out of every four RFIs receives no response. Without someone responding to and resolving the issues raised by an RFI, it might result in substandard craftsmanship, inappropriate building and residential construction, and even a potentially unsafe structure.

With clients being more aggressive by the year, it is critical that construction firms build these structures in accordance with the full scope and requirements laid out by the engineers and architects; alternatively, the construction firm risks facing legal action over a substandard building.


In conclusion, it is essential to understand the significance of requests for information (RFI) in building projects. RFIs serve as a foundation for clarifying project complexities, resolving conflicts, and formally recording decisions during building projects. However, mishandling RFIs can result in significant financial difficulties and project problems. It is critical for project teams to follow correct RFI processes, prioritize inquiries, and avoid unnecessary requests. Construction companies may maintain excellent standards, reduce risks, and develop strong relationships with clients and stakeholders by responding to RFIs quickly and expertly. Finally, prioritizing effective RFI management is critical to delivering secure, compliant, and high-quality construction projects.


An RFI, or Request for Information, is a formal process used in construction to seek clarification on various project details such as documentation, drawings, or specifications. It serves to bridge information gaps, resolve confusion, and document project decisions.

The primary purpose of the RFI process is to minimize the need for time-consuming and costly corrective actions throughout the project's lifecycle. It aims to address issues promptly, thereby reducing delays and avoiding additional expenses.

RFIs can be classified into several categories, including design clarifications, requests for design changes, substitution requests, constructability issues, and different site conditions. These categories help streamline communication and focus on achieving the desired project outcomes.

RFIs should not be used for routine communication, submittals, safety plans, or documentation purposes. They are also not suitable for issuing design papers that should have been included in the original contract.