As prelude to our Top 10 FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), we first provide an overview of the systems associated with our service offerings. These systems are often referred to as “low voltage” systems. Interestingly, one FAQ you won’t see is, What defines a low voltage systems. Perhaps this is because many already know. But for those who may not, we offer the following.
Low voltage systems is a reference to systems that operate at a voltage which is lower than typical building power (120VAC, 480/277VAC, etc). Basically, this is any system that is not associated with power distribution. Examples in your home include doorbells, thermostats, garage door openers, and landscape lighting.
In commercial facilities, low voltage systems are also referred to as the Division 27/28 systems, per the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) Master Format standard specifications for building projects. Division 27 covers Communications Systems while Division 28 addresses Electronic Safety and Security Systems. One of the primary aspects of Communications Systems is the structured cabling system – the platform that supports low voltage systems throughout a building and/or across a campus. Examples of these systems include any Point of Sale terminal. The building’s WiFi system, which comprises wireless access points (WAPs), are indeed supported by the structured cabling system. Security systems include CCTV cameras, intrusion detection, and access control systems. Audio visual systems include interactive way finding systems, video walls, projectors/displays and sound systems. Other examples are paging/intercom system, mass notification systems, nurse call systems, cellular/ emergency responders radio communications and low voltage lighting.
As you can no doubt see, low voltage systems are an important part of a commercial development.
One more thing… This Top 10 List does change over time, and as it does, we update the list.
Top 10 FAQs that NTI Hears
1. What exactly does NTI do? This remains the most common FAQ we hear from prospective first-time clients and even during design from other design team members. From a services perspective, NTI provides consulting and design services including budgeting, programming, design, documentation, construction administration, procurement management and implementation management. From a systems perspective, we design the cabling infrastructure and all types of security and audio visual systems. For the Emergency Radio Responder Systems (ERRS) and cellular wireless infrastructure (Distributed Antenna Systems – DAS), NTI includes a schematic riser diagram as part of our base design services. A design-build vendor is typically hired to test, design and implement the solutions for these systems if one is needed.
2. How much space do you need for the systems? This is the another common FAQ we hear as we begin a project. This is our first order of business for a new project (during either Concept or Schematic Design). Depending on the size of the development, there may be a need for miles of cable throughout the building or buildings, so proper placement and size of these rooms is paramount. Rooms sizes vary, most often from about 40 sf to about 300 sf or more, depending on the function of a given room. Given that square footage is a valuable commodity, it is important to maximize its usage while maintaining ample space to support the technology infrastructure for a facility. Even when NTI is engaged in the latter design stages of a project space planning remains our first objective.
3. Does the growth of wireless systems reduce the need for cabling design? The one-word answer is, “no”. As wireless systems have continued to evolve, today they typically contain a higher density of access/points and antennae than in years past. Wireless systems need to support not just coverage but capacity, the latter of which is driving the number of active points in a building. Those active points require hardwired network connections that need to be supported by the structured cabling system. Emerging 5G technologies require even further active point densities than the present.
4.Will NTI design the Distributed Antenna System (DAS)? As part of our base scope of services, NTI includes a schematic riser diagram for the Cellular/DAS, identifies pathways and spaces, and electrical/mechanical requirements for this system. We coordinate and partner with a specialty DAS vendor to identify the actual system requirements and can document these as needed. The process is to perform a propagation study based upon design documentation to establish a base system approach. After the structure is significantly in place, this design is then confirmed via testing in the field. The result of this testing can sometimes result in changes to the design but is, more often than not, a verification of same.
5. Does NTI purchase required technology systems? NTI doesn’t purchase systems,, but we do offer procurement management services to assist the owner with conducting the procurement process. This begins with defining the needed systems to be procured, most often through an RFP process. We can also provide recommendations for vendors if needed. We develop a detailed RFP, send it to 3 or 4 selected vendors. We then review all received bids with the owner for evaluation and award. If desired, NTI will also provide implementation oversight.
6. Which is better – a Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) or Ethernet (copper) to the Guestroom? This question is most poignant in a discussion of hotel guestroom technology and is one of those issues where either decision may work. For quite a few years, NTI has regularly provided an assessment of these options. There are several factors that play a role: building/campus layout, available floor space, total cost of ownership, and support/maintenance to name a few. NTI has designed numerous GPONs, however, we also continue to implement the traditional copper solution, as well.
7. Is low voltage lighting cost effective for an entire project? This is not a simple answer. Low voltage LED Lighting offers far more control than traditional light bulbs. They can be dimmed, their color can be changed, and turned on/off without shortening their life cycle. The control capabilities can easily be kicked up a notch with the addition of a couple of switches and sensors, and from there, the possibilities are nearly limitless. As a project wide solution, the answer relies on a number of project variable questions. Depending on the answers to these questions, a project wide solution can often be designed. Industries where solutions have been provided include Education, Healthcare, Industrial, Office, and Retail. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it is fair to say that LV LED Lighting is emerging as a viable cost effective solution in many markets and industries, and is likely to experience significant growth over the next few years.
8. Does NTI provide As-Built drawings? Within our specifications, NTI requires the contractor to prepare and provide as-built drawing documentation, and we will review to ensure the content is sufficient for ownership use. These as-builts are part of an installation’s close-out documents which also include final test reports, copies of programming software, original copies of any software/hardware programs, labeling list, and product and warranty information.
9. How many security cameras do I need? There is no universal definitive answer for this question. The answer is related to an owner or operator’s desire for coverage with cameras. In some cases, building entrances and exits may be adequate, while in other cases full coverage is desired. NTI has significant experience in multiple markets so we do have an understanding of where and how many cameras are considered typical for projects for specific developments. NTI will develop a layout of CCTV cameras and can provide suggestions. However, it ultimately becomes the responsibility of ownership and their legal and/or risk management personnel to finalize and approve our CCTV design layouts
10. Exactly what is Sound Masking? Sound masking is use of injecting white noise into a space to cover the existing sounds in that space, making them more difficult to distinguish. This is of particular value in open workstation environments and other open spaces where people congregate and converse. Essentially, when background sounds are harder to distinguish, they’re easier to tune out. For a more complete answer to this, read the article What is Sound Masking?, by Abe Fleming.
We receive a wide variety of inquiries regarding technology in general. If you would like to get a more complete answer to one of the above, or to another question which is not addressed above, please contact us via e-mail at TheNTIteam@nticonsultants.com, or call us at 678-460-3936.