Last edited 21 May 2021

Request for information RFI

A Request for Information (RFI) (occasionally referred to as a Technical Query) is a formal question asked by one party to a contract on a construction project to the other party. Typically this will be a request from the contractor to the client’s consultant team, but it may be between any of the parties, for example from a sub-contractor to a contractor.

RFIs can be roughly classified into several different categories. These classifications can be valuable to the project team if broad categories are used in documents. This way they will enhance communication, focus the process on the intended and desired result, and steer the project team.

These categories are:

RFIs are generally required to clarify information in the contract documentation or to provide information that was not complete at the time the contract was agreed.

RFIs should set out:

It may be necessary for the party receiving the RFI to seek further information from parties with whom they themselves have a contractual relationship in order provide a response. It is good practice to include this information from other parties with the response to the original RFI. This can create a chain of information, where for example a subcontractor requests information from the main contractor, who in turn requests information from the client’s consultant team, and so on. It may then be appropriate for responses and any explanatory documents attached to them to be disseminated amongst the wider project team.

This creates a matrix of RFIs that need to be carefully tracked, responded to and distributed appropriately. This process be managed using an information request schedule, or can be managed electronically.

It is important to record the dates that RFIs are dispatched, the dates by which responses are required and the dates that responses are received to provide evidence in the event that a dispute arises.

Contractually, the requirement to respond to an RFI is created by the obligation to provide further information as is necessary to enable the other party to complete the contract on time. Requests should, however, give sufficient notice for the respondent to be able to resource and prepare a reply by the date that the information is required. The parties are then entitled to rely on the information provided as correct.

Failure to provide necessary information may qualify as a relevant event for which the contractor may be entitled to an extension of time and to claim loss and expense incurred as a result of any delay. Similarly, a response which constitutes a variation in the nature of the works may qualify as a relevant event for which the contractor may be entitled to an extension of time and to claim loss and expense.

A contractor’s master programme (generally prepared immediately after the execution of the contract and issued to the contract administrator for comment) may constitute a request for information. Similarly, a client information release schedule may constitute a commitment to provide information by certain dates, whether or not these dates are necessary to achieve the completion date.

In 2018, researchers in Australia analysed data collected from 168 projects and calculated that the average cost of processing RFIs on a project is US$656,000 (AUS$910,000). Ref

Building Information Modelling (BIM) should give the entire project team access to better, more comprehensive and more co-ordinated information, reducing significantly the need for RFIs.

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