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A request for information (RFI) is a standard business process whose purpose is to collect written information about the capabilities of various suppliers. Normally it follows a format that can be used for comparative purposes.
An RFI is primarily used to gather information to help make a decision on what steps to take next. RFIs are therefore seldom the final stage and are instead often used in combination with the following: request for proposal (RFP), request for tender (RFT), and request for quotation (RFQ). In addition to gathering basic information, an RFI is often used as a solicitation sent to a broad base of potential suppliers for the purpose of conditioning suppliers' minds, developing strategy, building a database, and preparing for an RFP, RFT, or RFQ.
The RFI procedure is used in the construction industry in cases where it is necessary to confirm the interpretation of a detail, specification or note on the construction drawings or to secure a documented directive or clarification from the architect or client that is needed to continue work.
An RFI raised by the general contractor that has been answered by the client or architect and distributed to all stakeholders is generally accepted as a change to the scope of work unless further approval is required for costs associated with the change.
It is common and accepted practice for a subcontractor or supplier to use an RFI to state his/her concern related to the omission or misapplication of a product, and seek further clarification of the building owner's intended use or the building official acceptance of the specified product. It is also acceptable for the subcontractor to use an RFI to call attention to an inferior product that may not meet the building owner's needs, and use his/her expertise to recommend the better/correct product.
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