Success Is Based on Answers to Design Questions

January 20, 2023

Questions that lead to success

In our industry, success is based on answers to design questions.

That is not always as easy as it may seem, because not all of the answers are known all of the time when discussing a project as we prepare our proposal. But in order to deliver the quality of service that NTI is known for, we begin with the end in mind. For a quarter of a century, NTI’s approach to business and the services we provide has been to meet or exceed expectations of our client.

To that end, we begin by learning the owner’s vision for the project, then learning our specific scope. Sometimes all we get is an email requesting a proposal for the attached drawings. We may have all we need, but we often find that we are asking for more information to prepare our proposals. The drawings do not clarify the owner’s vision. 

For example: Does this owner want the rooftop venue to be a popular local destination, or is it a private space for building residents and guests?

Do all meeting spaces need to be interconnected for sharing a single presentation, or does each space stand alone? 

Is the restaurant/bar a relaxing quiet retreat or will it be equipped for live entertainment? We do have projects that deliver a clear program, a high level project presentation with project description, with a list of inclusions and a narrative intent. That is not typical. We often get too little information. So asking design related questions is where we begin. 

The beginning of how success is based on answers to design questions

We have differentiated ourselves by consistently adhering to NTI's commitment to superior technology services for commercial and governmental projects. And we are proud that we have grown over the last 2 and a half decades by serving our returning clients and new clients who have been referred to NTI when they needed a technology consultant. We greatly appreciate that because of our clients we can look forward to providing outstanding service for the next 25 years.

The following is not a comprehensive list and is presented for perspective. After learning the owner’s vision, our discussions seek to answer:

1. What systems are in scope?

NTI’s base scope most often includes the IT/cabling. Our design addresses the MDF, IDF roomss and pathways & spaces for the cable design.. Security is also quite oten in our base scope.. In some cases (a secure facility), there may be a security specialist. Are the Audio Visual (AV) systems in our scope? AV is usually in our scope, however not always. The owner’s expectations for each system’s performance is important because scopes vary widely by industry, as do the budgets. 

For example: A federal project may be a secure facility, which amplifies the security needs. An auditorium is most often audio visual intensive, but how intensive? These and other questions need to be appreciated before we begin our design. As we inquire about the desired functional scope, it is not unusual for us to raise a question that our architect client does not have the answer. It may also be that the owner had not considered one or more of our questions. 

2. Who will be NTI’s client?

NTI most often works for an architect or an owner’s representative, but we can also work for the owner directly, an MEP or a general contractor. In most cases, we are following the standard AIA design schedule. In certain cases (market and client dictated), we are delivering an IFC with defined review, bid and/or permit sets.

3. Will an initial site visit be required? 

If the project is a renovation of a same use building layout that will remain intact, we are most likely going to need to inspect existing conditions. Renovations, restorations, expansions and adaptive reuse projects are all examples of projects most often in need of a site visit. However, there are times when we can get required information from another member of the design team.

4. Are there scheduled delays? 

Is there “pause and wait” time on the design schedule for an anticipated V.E. session during design, for state code compliance verification and approval, or between design and construction phases to gain adequate pre-leases? 

5. How extensive are the required coordination efforts? 

Ten or more years ago, in-person meetings during design were common. Today, virtual meetings have replaced many of these in-person meeting requirements, but certainly not all.Are in person visits before or during design anticipated or required? Is attendance at the design coordination meetings virtual only, or will in person meetings be necessary?

Construction surveyors discussing how success is based on answers to design questions

6. Are all buildings in scope on the same design schedule or separate schedules? 

This is most relevant for multiple building campus projects. If it is a mixed use development where there are different owners for the hotel and the residential buildings, it is not uncommon to have different design and construction schedules. Even with the same owner, the project may start in schematic design at the same time, but the target date for 100% construction documents are different. And the same is true for the construction schedule.

7. What is the outside plant/campus scope? 

In most cases the scope for the outdoor spaces is relatively easy. However, a campus of size may require security through and to the perimeter. Here, the planned security could be CCTV on poles or more robust including audio and/or silent alarms to a remote site (police, Headquarters).

8. Have the design built systems vendors been selected? 

(DAS, wireless, security) DAS and wireless systems are designed and built after the walls are up during construction because of the interference of the building material with their signals. NTI provides a schematic level DAS document and a preliminary wireless design (the eventual vendor may change WAP locations). As mentioned above, if this is a secure facility, a security specialist may be responsible for a design built system. NTI can document those systems by others who are responsible for the design if requested/required.

9. Who is responsible for the RFP/procurement process? 

Many owners have people on staff to handle this function. However, if the owner (or operator) does not have the human resources available, NTI can provide the services needed to define selected systems in an RFP document to solicit apples-to-apples comparisons, then manage the RFP process through selection of the vendors.

10. What construction phase services are needed?

After the design is complete, are there a required # of construction site visits at defined milestones? Are we verifying design intent only, or is more oversight needed for vendor implementation? The latter would require more site visits.

11. Is there a requirement for commissioning?

In certain instances, commissioning of the systems may be required. In these cases, NTI can either provide the services or work with a separate commissioning agent. 

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but success is based on answers to design questions and this is a really good start!

Men talking about how success is based on answers to design questions

The Connection between Low Voltage and the Design Phases

For the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, laws require that a licensed professional provide the design. That is not true for the low voltage systems with the exception of the first responders systems, which are designed by specialists. While not as critical as the first responders systems, the remaining low voltage systems protect physical and virtual security, and provide connectivity to any and all technology content. A poor design can affect the performance of each of these systems. And in the 21st century, bad technology systems are unacceptable whether for a university, hotel, corporate space or government facility. 

Where NTI design services begin in the design schedule will vary by client, industry and a host of conditions that are not in NTI’s control. NTI may start a project before Kick Off, assisting during Conceptual Design, and we might deliver our entire suite of services. On the other end of the design schedule, we have been called into a project when the architect’s design team is already in the construction documents phase because a project manager, or a hotel franchisor, realized there was no technology consultant on board and all or part of the technology requirements were not part of the design process.

The NTI Value

NTI employs a staff of professionals who are students of our industry with credentials such as RCDD, RCDD/NTS, PMP. CTS, CTS-D. Our value to a project is our collective knowledge that allows us to develop a professional design, then document that design in a 100% CD or IFC set of drawings, then confirm our design intent during the construction process. 

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