I participated in a discussion posted to IPD Thought Leaders for Healthcare, a LinkedIn group to which I belong. The question posed was, “How do you perceive the amount of RFIs on an IPD Project versus a traditional project? Should an IPD Project have fewer RFIs than a traditional project?”
As you would expect, opinions varied and were somewhat influenced by the participant’s role as Owner, Designer or Contractor, but the overall consensus was that collaboration in the IPD model can improve the efficiency of the question/answer process and, regardless of the delivery method, communicating decisions and changes is still required.
As I reflected on the nature of the discussion, a few thoughts came to mind.
Why do we have RFIs in the first place? On one hand, most people just want to get the right information and build a good project. On the other hand, any construction industry attorney will tell you: if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. Delay and E&O claims, change orders, warranty disputes, etc. all require documentation to sort it out in court.
But if IPD indemnification clauses eliminate the legal issues, do we still need RFIs?
Typically most RFIs are caused by missing or conflicting information, unforeseen conditions or lack of coordination. In an integrated team, RFIs might also be ideas for reducing cost or improving schedule. Each of these items is cause for discussion and decision making.
IPD’s use of collocation, daily huddles and regular implementation team meetings provide venues for discussion and decisions and can reduce the number of RFIs . Questions still arise though; after all, the perfect set of documents has not yet been achieved. The RFI is a great tool for communicating the questions and answers to the entire team.
RFIs can take time to make the cycle from contractor to designer to owner and back to the contractor. Writing up the question, copying a drawing or two and maybe including some pictures takes a contractor’s time away from construction progress. Designers often need clarification of the question and conditions. Once the question is understood, the issue is circulated through the design team and Owner, options are reviewed and more questions may be sent back to the contractor. Finally a direction is confirmed, documents are revised, the response form is filled out and a bulletin, ASI, or field sketch may need to be issued. All the while, the contractor may be on hold until the official documentation is issued. There has to be a better way.
To improve on this issue, we have incentivizing the turn-around time of RFIs. Tying incentive compensation to a three-day turnaround on RFIs has had a great impact on checking of in-boxes, clarity of questions, suggesting solutions, picking up the phone, impromptu team discussions and documentation techniques.
So, can IPD eliminate the RFI? Not if questions will still arise and communication is valued, but true collaboration and incentives can make the process run a lot smoother.
For even more info on how collaboration and communication can lead to a successful healthcare building, download the case study below on the Henry J. Carter Specialty Hospital.