At the end of the review, I create a spreadsheet documenting the questions and issues observed. I then have columns checked off as to if the item is:
- Editorial in nature;
- A request for information (RFI) if not given more detail; or
- It would result in a change order if not corrected.
This spreadsheet is then shared with the Owner. I use my copy to look at trends between design firms as well as whether the project is a repair, renovation, or new construction.
When I recently completed this spreadsheet for a set of plans which were stamped as "Bidding Documents" consisting of 155 drawing sheets, I had 130 comments. Nobody is perfect and anyone who says they will catch all problems are not being truthful with themselves, and no matter how many sets of eyes review a set of plans and specs of this size not all of the issues will be detailed. However, I did not expect there to be quite so many.
Of these 130 comments, there were 31 observations which I listed as RFI items. RFIs are usually the result of incomplete contract documents, conflict/inconstancies between parts of contract documents, insufficient amount of detail to determine design intent, inability for the contractor to provide a specified product or system, and unforeseen site conditions encountered, to mention a few. These included things such as referring to an incorrect detail in a following sheet, model numbers for equipment which were no longer (or never) available, electrical panels which were not being fed, plywood sheathing orientation not being listed, and notes such as "color to be determined by Owner", "verify with city officials for code applicability" and "standard construction practices".
Correcting these issues prior to bidding:
1.Saves time during construction. Fewer RFIs means construction material and equipment can be ordered more quickly, thus reducing the impact of long lead times.
2.Reduces hours of work by the design firm during construction. The more time saved, more revenue for the designer. One article on "The Jobsite" states the average cost to the design firm is approximately $1,000 per RFI.
As stated above, nobody is perfect and not all issues will be identified during the review process. Therefore, RFIs are a necessary evil during a construction project. However, RFIs should not be used for requesting information readily found in the contract documents.
When an RFI is submitted, it should detail the name of the project, who is issuing the RFI, a RFI reference identification number previously agreed to by all parties, the date it was issued, the portion of the project it relates to, which specification section it relates to, the urgency of the RFI (i.e., long equipment lead time, critical path, etc.), the needed response date, and a propose solution for the RFI. To expedite the response process, the RFI could have the documents in question attached. These documents could be the specifications, drawings, material cut sheets, pictures and/or videos of current site conditions. The more information provided will allow the reviewer to better understand the situation raised in the RFI.