Working with consultants and writing RFIs

A project manager of a general contractor needs to have a working relationship with structural engineer and architect of the project. This is very important to run the project effectively and amoothly for all parties involved.

For example, in almost all project specifications, it is stated that the consultants have 15 days to answer an RFI or process a submittal, but in reality it can never work this way. This is construction, things can not wait. No drawings will ever be complete, and during construction problems will be encountered all the time. When this happens, you need to have such a relationship with your consultants that, you should be able to just call them and ask your question and get a quick answer. Then follow up with a confirming RFI. In most cases, if you are working with reasonable people, they will understand this and give you all the help you need. Even if by contract they are not obligated to reply to you before 15 days. They still don’t want the job to delay, and they know that if they don’t answer to you on time, the job will delay.

Of course you are going to make them angry if you ask redundant questions which are actually shown on drawings, or some questions that are a result of lack of early coordination. They don’t like it for example, if an elevation somewhere can easily be inferred from what is given in the drawings but you still ask it, or even if it is a legitimate question, you ask it in the last minute. The first case is really not much forgivable and they will be upset with you, but the second one is to a certain extent is. Although they might tell you why you didn’t ask that question earlier and now giving them such a short notice, they are right and wrong. Although in some cases you could have looked at things earlier and ask the question earlier, in many cases things just come up or can not easily be seen before you are close to it. They also know that. The most important thing is to keep a good working relationship with them, don’t try to be the wise guy by asking questions to as if to prove that you are asking such good questions and what a great guy you are. That is not the purpose of asking RFIs.

So bottom line, 1-do your homework and look at the drawings and the specifications carefully, 2-do your homework timely enough, 3-when you call them or send them the question, let them feel that you are not trying to be the wise guy here but really need to ask a question that is not clearly shown in plans and specifications, 4- don’t ask questions regarding the means and methods. That is for you to decide. And most important of all, establish good working relationship with the consultants.

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