New Hampshire Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute

A Friendly Rant About Addenda and RFI’s
by Ken Lambert, CSI, Red Thread

​​I work for a specialty subcontractor which is also a regional dealer/distributor.  Just a couple days ago I went thru the process of a rebid on a public project which I had bid to the GC back 2 months prior.   The project overall, which was for an urban municipality, was not that large or really that complicated.  My own portion or scope of it was quite small, which naturally made all of the following even more aggravating.

The bid drawings and documents came out two months ago and I bid off of those details and layouts.  In the span of about 45 days since I had bid the project, the project architect had issued 7 Addenda, involving a myriad of RFI (Request for Information) Q&A’s.

The sheer number of RFI Questions was staggering.

In just 1 addendum, they listed the Questions as follows: A…. B….. C….  etc, all the way to the letter Z.  So that was 26 questions alone.  Then they had to start back all over and go with AA….BB…..CC…. and going all up to Question TT.   So on this addendum there were 46 questions that needed to be answered, and the addendum was over 80 pages long.
That is just 1 of the 7 addenda- over a month and a half span.

The volume of all this is 1 issue.   The other complaint/concern is the number and quality of the RFI Questions that were submitted by the GC and the various bidding subcontractors.

I have certainly found that many GC’s do not want to make any kind of “debatable” decision, so they will “RFI everything” to the architect/ design team.  They will RFI many items that are not really a design RFI concern.  It is quicker and simpler for them to just forward any question to the architect.  I wonder if any architects can back up my claim on this theory?
In reviewing all these Questions, I found out about 1/3 of them were answered by the Architect by simply stating “Read Specification Section #”.   The answer was in the Spec section all along; nothing had to be added or clarified.  Many didn’t really read their specifications or the associated sections.

I realized that a good number of questions were really logistical questions for the GC, and the architect would have no say or opinion in the matter.  “What subcontractor needs to flash the window units?”  Is that really decided by the project architect?

In general, I do question whether this Bid Set of drawings/documents was complete enough to arrive at a valid project bid.   There seemed to be so many issues and open-ended questions and details that I wonder how much design funds were allocated and used by the city for the project.  Maybe the city only had 50% of what the design fee should have been, and some architectural firm took a stab at it for that price, hoping for the best and praying that there would not be seven addenda in 40 days?

I’m not sure what the moral of the story here is.  I do know that I was asked to review all these newer contract documents and then give the GC my “best and final” price on my scope.  I decided after I spent twice as long as I anticipated on this final review that I would not discount or lower my price at all for them.   I was very close to raising my price.  I wonder how many other involved subcontractor or vendors thought the same as I did.

‘Tis the life of commercial construction, especially of public projects.