As a 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 system? Perhaps this is because many already know. But for those who may not, we offer the following.
Low voltage systems operate at a lower voltage than typical building power (120VAC, 480/277VAC, etc.). This is any system that is not associated with power distribution. Examples in your home include doorbells, thermostats, garage door openers, and landscape lighting.
Low voltage systems are also referred to as the Division 27/28 systems in commercial facilities, 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 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 wayfinding 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 essential part of commercial development.
Top 10 FAQs
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 our first order of business for a new project, during either Concept or Schematic Design. Depending on the development's size, 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, from about 40 SF to about 300 SF or more, depending on the function of a room. Square footage is a valuable commodity, so it's crucial to maximize its usage while maintaining ample space to support a facility's technology infrastructure. 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 networks have continued to evolve, they typically contain a higher density of access/points and antennae than in years past. Wireless systems need to support coverage and 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 determine the actual system requirements and document them as needed. The process is to perform a propagation study based on 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. This testing can sometimes result in changes to the design but is, more often than not, a verification of the same.
5. Does NTI purchase required technology systems?
NTI doesn't purchase systems, but we offer procurement management services to assist the owner with 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 required. In this case, we develop a detailed RFP, send it to 3 or 4 selected vendors, and review all received bids with the owner for evaluation and award. If desired, NTI will also provide implementation oversight.
FAQ regarding low voltage systems
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. It is one of those issues where either decision may work. For quite a few years, NTI has regularly provided an assessment of these options. Several factors play a role: building/campus layout, available floor space, the 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.
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, the 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 several project variable questions. Depending on the answers to these questions, a project-wide solution can often be designed. Solutions have been provided in the following industries, 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. The systems are 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 deliver as-built drawing documentation. We will review to ensure the content is sufficient for ownership use. These as-builts are part of an installation's close-out documents, including 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 to 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 understand where and how many cameras are considered typical 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 risk management personnel to finalize and approve our CCTV design layouts.
10. Exactly what is Sound Masking?
Sound masking injects 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 discern, 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 discuss any of these questions or pose one that is not addressed above, please contact us via e-mail at TheNTIteam@nticonsultants.com, or call us at 678-460-3936.