by Shawn Mahoney
There has been good discussion on the Grant Simpson/Jim Atkins article on requests for information in the AIA-member-only LinkedIn page. In my experience, working both as an architect and construction manager, I think RFI's are essential to getting projects completed on time as well as providing the owner with accurate as-builts.
I agree that the number of RFI's on a project is meaningless. I like to manadate that RFI's and document releases (typically issueance of full-size sheets) by the architect are the only means of changing the contract.
This eliminates all other means (i.e. ASI's, etc) of information transfer and allows for others besides the contractor to use the RFI process. Nobody can say for certain whether a response to an RFI has additional costs until it fully reviewed by the contractor. So why even try?
In my view, relying on the A201 strict language for controlling behavior on a project is a mistake. The owner is paying the architect for CA services and if the contractor is sending in unnecessary RFI's all the architect has to do is collect them and present them at a project meeting. The owner will then direct the contractor to stop. The architect running the CA phase of any project has to have a backbone and stand up for the design team.
All projects should have a comprehensive sitdown prior to construction and the ground rules for RFI's should be documented and agreed to in writing. However, no matter how much you document a process, two things are still going to happen;
1. The contractor will discover something at the last minute and need to issue a "hot" RFI requiring an immediate response
2. The architects drawings will have gaps that can't be solved through common detail references or specification language.
No matter how good the architect is, the drawings will never show everything. Through the proper use of RFI's by all parties, the design can be better defined for finer construction and the as-builts for the owner will actually reflect what was built.