Top Ten FAQs… Updated April 2020

April 21, 2020

We first published The Top Ten FAQs (frequently asked questions) in August of 2019. Since that time, seven of the most common questions remain the same, with three new questions entering the top 10.

In commercial facilities, the low voltage systems are also referred to as the Division 27/28 systems defined by the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) Master Format standard. The specifications for building projects include Division 27, which covers Communications Systems, and Division 28, which addresses Electronic Safety and Security Systems.

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The structured cabling system is the basis for these systems throughout a building or across a campus. And the systems they support include Point of Sale terminals, WiFi system, security systems, and audio visual systems.

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Top Ten FAQs that NTI Hears

1. What exactly does NTI do? 

It is no surprise that this has always been the most asked question of NTI's Top Ten questions. We are pure consultants whose sole focus is to provide the best advice, design, procurement, and implementation management services for our clients. For a complete answer, click on one of the following – NTI Overview, Our Process, Technologies.

2. How much space is needed for 'low voltage' systems? 

This remains a common FAQ we hear as we begin a project. Space planning is an early priority when starting a new project (usually 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 sizing and placement of the MDF and IDF rooms is paramount. Rooms sizes vary from about 40 SF to about 300+ SF depending on what needs to be in the space. Even when NTI is engaged in the latter design stages of a project, space planning remains our first objective.

3. Is low voltage (or PoE) lighting cost-effective for an entire project? 

This question was not being asked when we first published the Top 10 FAQs. Since our last update three months ago, NTI has been selected to provide PoE lighting for multiple projects. Low voltage LED Lighting (or Power over Ethernet Lighting) offers better central/remote control than traditional light bulbs. Examples include dimming, changing colors, and turning on/off without affecting their life cycle. The control capabilities can easily be kicked up a notch with the addition of switches and sensors. The technology is available to provide project-wide solutions for specific areas within a building or the entire facility. Solutions are available across industries, including Education, Healthcare, Hospitality, Industrial, Office, and Retail. This isn't an exhaustive list, but it is fair to say that LV /PoE Lighting is emerging as a viable, cost-effective solution across most markets and in most industries.

4. Will NTI design the Distributed Antenna System (DAS)? 

NTI includes a schematic riser diagram for the Cellular/DAS as part of our base scope services. The design identifies pathways and spaces and electrical/mechanical requirements if it's determined that a DAS is needed once construction begins. 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. NTI can coordinate with a specialty DAS vendor to identify the actual system requirements and can include the final design in our drawings, as needed.

5. Do we need both WiFi and DAS? 

This question was not in our Top Ten FAQs originally. WiFi began by providing wireless access for PCs, and evolved to providing it for mobile devices over the last five years. DAS started as an antenna on a building to bring better cell signal for large venues and evolved to having affordable solutions for much smaller venues. Because of their evolution, WiFi and DAS solutions now overlap coverage. Still, neither technology is currently making the other one unnecessary. One reason this has elevated to a Top 10 question is likely the approval of CBRS by the FCC in 2019. Please refer to the NTI Autumn newsletter's lead article, which announced the FCC's support of Citizens Broadband Radio Service.

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. 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 more GPONs over time; however, we also regularly design and implement the traditional copper solution.

7. When should a Technology Consultant be engaged to begin? 

The question has been a common question for over a decade. The simple answer is "during concept or schematic design." Two reasons stand out – budgets and space planning, both major issues. And both are best addressed early in the project to avoid wasted time and unnecessary expense.

8. Exactly what is Sound Masking? 

Sound masking is the practice of injecting white noise into a space to cover the existing sounds in that space. It routinely gets asked of us. It 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 complete answer to this, read the article What is Sound Masking? by Abe Fleming.

9. 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. 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.

10. Does NTI provide build-out services for Division 27 and 28 systems? 

The short answer is no. This is the last of 3 questions we didn't hear when we first published our Top Ten FAQs. Since our merger with ASD® in mid-2018, we have begun hearing this question more often. NTI has always been and remains a full line technology consulting firm. We are pure consultants offering consulting, design services, procurement management, and implementation oversight. Our sole focus is to provide the best value technology solutions for our clients with our full-time professional staff. NTI and ASD® are now subsidiaries of the same parent company, so when asked, we can, and do, refer our sister company, ASD®, to build out the Division 27 and 28 systems.

We receive a wide variety of inquiries regarding technology in general. Our Top 10 FAQs are the ones we hear most often, but if there is an answer to another question that is not addressed above, please contact us via e-mail at TheNTIteam@nticonsultants.com or call us at 678-460-3936.

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