Utilizing an RFI in Truss Design

In April we posted an article discussing the importance of a designer being proactive in creating a Quality Assurance (QA) methodology that is integrated into their personal design process. This should help the designer make fewer mistakes, become more productive, and more valuable to his employer.

In considering the QA process how should we handle the gray areas that we come across in drawings? Let’s face it, many plans have less than the ideal amount of detail; differing wall heights aren’t called out, heel heights are left to the imagination, sometimes roof pitches aren’t indicated, load paths are not thought through, etc.

While a “Request for Information” (RFI) may be in order, we need to consider some other steps:

  • Slow down, step back, and re-engage
  • Ask another designer or your design manager
  • Consider the viability of a design based on the amount of solid evidence used in design decisions
  • Use “Verify” notes to point to any assumptions made
  • Send off the RFI for clarification/confirmation

An RFI form need not be complicated. A sample could resemble this:

rfi-form

Slowing down and even stepping away from the plans (maybe dropping and doing some push ups) before re-engaging with the plans, may allow you to catch that piece of information that you missed the first couple of times.

Ask for help

Often pride and an unwillingness to interrupt our coworkers can deter us from reaching out. Pride says figure it out on your own. Consider though, that even world-class athletes have coaches and you’ll realize that we all need help at times.

Those that reach out will progress. Concern over interrupting our co-workers is legitimate but we can also mitigate this concern by getting a list of questions together before asking for help. This will minimize interrupting their workflow.

Consider the evidence

I know, I know you went into truss design, not law, right? But you need to be able to ask yourself, am I making this design decision based on information that is verifiable from the plans or a reliable source? Or am I making this up based on what I think the architect wants?

The greater amount of decisions based on reliable sources, the more secure the design. You can even think of it in building terms. Evidence equals a foundation. No evidence equals a building without a foundation. Assumptions may or may not land upon a foundation. Building without a foundation can result in costly and time-consuming mistakes.

Is the job bid or production? If a bid, then there is greater leeway in the design, with less need to send an RFI for the less glaring or minor issues. Chances are the customer just wants to get a ballpark on cost before fine tuning their design. Here we can utilize “Verify” notes on the gray areas or conflicting information from the plans. Here is an example from a previous project, like so:

rfi-truss

This was a tough design to slog through because of the sheer amount of issues discovered. However, working through the plan thoroughly in the bid phase allows our client to work with their customers to resolve these issues so that a production quality design becomes viable.

Conclusion

After we have exhausted these options (or if this is a production design) then we need to send in the RFI. Sometimes a plan just won’t work as drawn. Or perhaps there is so much conflicting and/or missing information that the design could go divergent ways, in that case we need to reach out to the customer and bring them into the design decisions. For production we just don’t want to guess. If I interpret the plans one way, and the builder interprets it another we will end up with trusses that don’t fit the structure. This is a situation that no one wants.

What methodology do you all use in your design? How do you deal with those grey areas in plans? Let us know in the comments below.

Tim Hoke – Design Professional

Gould Design, Inc.