by Girard R. Visconti
In construction, an RFI (Request for Information) seeks clarifications of plans, drawings, specifications and agreement, which is a formal request by a contractor or subcontractor seeking clarification of various issues and gaps in the construction documents.
Generally, RFIs are utilized pre-bid, ie. during the bidding process, which is submitted to the owner and/or architect to ask questions concerning various ambiguities or gaps in the Request for Proposals, etc. In addition, RFIs are used during the construction process asking the owner, designer, architect, engineer, etc. to clarify a drawing or specification, materials, etc.
RFIs are important since later in the project, the owner, designer, general contractor, etc. can state that the subcontractor or general contractor did not ask for an RFI and therefore should have been presumed that there is no ambiguity or gaps in the construction documents.
RFIs usually concern design, construction coordination, constructability issues, etc. RFIs should be in writing with the name of the project, the address, the contractor and RFI number, title and question of the issue that is posed by the contractor or subcontractor.
In the case of the subcontractor, the RFI is sent from the subcontractor to the general contractor who reviews the RFI and sends it to the project manager or architect, which is reviewed and further sent to the engineer, architect, etc. with a response.
Importantly, RFIs should not be used for a normal and regular communication or a progress report, or a change order. Therefore, RFIs are important to clarify certain gaps or ambiguities in the construction documents pre-bid or during construction.
A subcontractor or general contractor has a duty to request an RFI pre-bid, in that there will be no defense that the subcontractor or general contractor did not inquire at the pre-bid stage if they knew that there was a gap or ambiguity in the documents.
Girard R. Visconti, Esq. is partner at Savage Law Partners, LLP.