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Understanding the Basics of RFI in Construction

Requests for information (RFIs) are essential elements of construction project planning. When a stakeholder wants to improve or clarify a certain aspect of the project, they can file an RFI to gain access to relevant data. In this way, RFI plays a small part in keeping everyone informed and ensuring the project runs smoothly.

Here’s everything aspiring professionals need to know about the hows, whys and whens of RFIs in the construction industry.

Key Components of RFI

RFIs are supposed to provide insight and explanation, so they must follow a consistent structure that lays out the information in an easily digestible format. Most RFIs are only a few pages long and include the following components:

● Project specifications

● Construction company’s name and contact information

● The addressee’s name and contact information

● RFI date, number and response deadline

● Title, abstract and detailed description of RFI

● Space for the company to address the question or concern

Maintaining this standardized format helps construction companies formulate a concise and timely response to the RFI. Timeliness is more important than ever in the construction industry, as labor and material shortages cause frequent project delays and force contractors to extend timelines. Reducing informational bottlenecks keeps the project moving.

Construction companies can also make quick resolutions to RFIs thanks to recent advancements in management software. All project datasets and descriptions are stored in a centralized digital location with no unnecessary paperwork, allowing stakeholders to see real-time updates and access the latest versions of important documents — including RFIs.

Another reason for RFI’s increasing effectiveness is the growth of big data in construction. Industry professionals now have access to greater amounts of data than ever before, thanks to the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) analytics tools. More available data allows contractors and stakeholders to make accurate estimates and bids that lead to RFI resolutions.

Types of RFIs

Although RFIs generally follow the same template, each request focuses on a specific application. Their categorization determines who needs to send and receive the requested information.

The main requests a construction company might receive during an average project include:

General issues: This type of RFI addresses a broad range of topics, from missing documents to employee schedules to equipment warranties. It’s a quick and simple way to address day-to-day problems that might arise during a project:

● Design: RFIs play a key role in tracking the design process and helping contractors implement changes.

● Feasibility: This type of RFI is often part of a feasibility assessment that has identified weak points in a project’s budget or logistics.

● Coordination: This RFI deals with workplace safety concerns and project scheduling conflicts.

Resource management: Contractors will use this RFI whenever they need to make a timeline adjustment that affects resource allocation.

● Scope deletion: Whenever a stakeholder or design planner wants to remove a certain feature from the project’s design, they will request a scope deletion.

● Value engineering: This type of RFI deals with new proposals to improve the project’s cost efficiency.

Change in specifications: Any time someone wants to change something about the building’s design, they will request a change in specs. These changes can include architectural features, materials and overall square footage.

There are also three basic steps that every RFI follows:

1. Submission: The party seeking new information will submit an RFI by either sending it directly to the contractor or to an intermediary. Stakeholders will often use an intermediary if they’re not on-site, while design planners or subcontractors can go straight to the contractor for answers.

2. Response: The recipient prepares and sends a response prior to the RFI’s deadline. Sometimes the response is available on the same day, but it can also sit unresolved for several days if the request involves a major overhaul of the project.

3. Evaluation: The first party evaluates the response and determines whether the case is resolved. If the response did not address the RFI’s question or concern, another RFI or a more formal method of correspondence might be required.

There is a clear overarching theme that connects each type of RFI. While they might focus on different topics, they share the same goal of optimizing the project’s workflow. It’s easy for information to get lost in the shuffle and never reach the right personnel. If and when that happens, an RFI is a fast and reliable course of action.

Challenges With RFI

While RFIs follow a straightforward procedure, there are still some weak points. The most glaring issue is the potential for major delays and cost overruns if the RFI doesn’t get resolved on time. If the RFI aims to address a pressing issue, it can hold up the entire project until the recipient formulates a response.

According to a 2013 study on the cost-effectiveness of more than 1 million RFIs, Navigant Consulting found the average request cost $1,080 on average and 10% of them were deemed “unjustifiable.” Moreover, about 25% of RFIs did not receive a reply by the deadline because the requests were unnecessary or impossible to complete.

In order to address these challenges, companies must set clear expectations for their RFI protocols and provide as much context as possible when filing one. The exact nature of the question or misunderstanding must be obvious to all parties involved.

The use of advanced software will also help them communicate without confusion and identify real-time solutions rather than backlogging the project with missed deadlines.

How Artificial Intelligence is Improving RFI

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) has made communication in construction much easier. The name of the game is predictive analytics. Rather than speculating about project issues and submitting an RFI without just cause, construction professionals can leverage AI software to anticipate problems before they arise.

Predictive analytics uses statistical algorithms and external data to forecast future trends. In the context of construction, these algorithms help managers predict and mitigate risks before they cause a disruption. An employee might still have to submit an RFI, but it will include the necessary information to solve the problem.

AI architectural technology has also helped to reduce the number of RFIs by providing accurate building blueprints, organizing documents, tracking inventories and optimizing deliveries. Improving these crucial project management tasks leads to fewer clashes between departments and thus fewer RFIs.

AI also helps companies track the resolution of RFIs by grouping them into similar categories and automatically detecting responses. RFI response software takes over much of the manual effort involved in the RFI process, including creating custom templates and instantly sending field notes with real-time updates to the right personnel. All communication is streamlined on the same online platform. No paper documents or written reports are necessary.

RFI – Challenging yet Crucial

All construction professionals agree that RFIs are crucial processes for discovering and resolving project issues. However, they can only work to their full potential if contractors, stakeholders and clients include the right information. This challenge will persist until every company has invested in capable management software that optimizes communication and collaboration.

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Evelyn Long is a writer and the editor-in-chief of Renovated. Her work has been published by NCCER, Build Magazine and other online publications.


5 AI Solutions Construction Can Implement Today

Is the future of the construction industry already here?! With continued growth in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) in other industries, why hasn’t construction followed suit? The industry continues to lag behind many others in the adoption of new tech, including AI, robotics, and machine learning.

In 2018 McKinsey posited five then-current technologies related to AI that construction could implement from other industries. Three years later, most of these are still science-fiction more than reality, but for how long?

1. Optimize project planning

Existing technology in the logistics industry allows delivery drivers to optimize their route planning to account for both distance and traffic. AI analyzes for the shortest route with the least amount of traffic to cut delivery times. The technology continues to learn through reinforcement learning, commonly called trial and error, the best way to go the shortest distance.

In construction, this technology could be used to analyze and assess project schedules to optimize them for the shortest time and best use of resources. By running thousands of alternatives, the technology could provide options that humans hadn’t thought of to perform the work most efficiently. AI could learn from past project data and over time correct itself with the best resource combinations and alternatives to speed up project planning.

2. Forecast risks and constructability of design

Pharmaceutical research firms are using AI to reduce R&D costs by predicting medical trial outcomes. The software uses predictive AI solutions to improve products without the additional cost of intermittent testing.

In construction, this technology could be used to forecast risks, predict constructability, and the structural stability of technical solutions during the planning stage. By testing for structural stability and constructability ahead of time, in the virtual world, it’s possible to save big bucks during the construction process. The technology can also be used to test various materials, limiting downtime during inspections.

3. Supply chain coordination

AI can currently be used to reduce downtime and oversupply of shipments in a supply chain. It also can be used to increase the predictability of shipments. This reduces costs, logistical burdens, and supply variability. We certainly could have used this technology during the recent construction material shortages.

As modular and prefabricated construction gain popularity, there will be an increased need for enhanced supply chain coordination. These types of construction rely on just-in-time deliveries, which can be more easily achieved using AI. The technology will also help control costs and overall cash flow.

4. Robots and 3D printing

Robots and 3D printing are already making waves in construction. They are being used by a few teams to provide affordable housing and reduce costs and project schedules. From this knowledge, researchers have trained robots to learn from simulations and used machine learning to replace software programming.

Robots are being used to construct panelized buildings and components for prefabricated and modular projects. The ability to use machine learning could shorten the timeframe even further and allow robots to quickly move from one task to another without lengthy programming.

5. Quality control

In healthcare, machine learning is creating opportunities to diagnose illnesses earlier through image recognition. The technology detects known markers for certain conditions to provide early diagnosis.

Using drone imagery and 3D models, the same technology could detect potential defects and help with quality control. It could notice anything from potential catastrophic failures to finish blemishes and alert the team in real-time.


While no one knows what the next technological breakthrough in construction will be, it’s safe to say it may come from one of these five technologies. All are using technology, machine learning, and AI to predict the future or inspect current work for future problems. By engaging technology early in the design and construction process, teams are saving time and money, as well as assuring the safety of building occupants.

Interested to hear more on AI? Jonas Premier can assist you with more information on how AI can empower your business to work smarter.

Visit our website or schedule a call with our team of professionals at Jonas Premier today for a complimentary walk-through of our simple and easy-to-use software.

Author Biography:

Dawn Killough is a construction writer with over 20 years of experience with construction payments, from the perspectives of subcontractors and general contractors. Dawn has held roles such as a staff accountant, green building advisor, project assistant, and contract administrator.  Her work for general contractors, design firms, and subcontractors has even led to the publication of blogs on several construction tech websites and her book, Green Building Design 101.