TELLA FIRMA FOUNDATIONS NAMES RICHARD HOLOMAN, FINANCIAL INDUSTRY VETERAN, TO BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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Former PricewaterhouseCoopers executive brings combination of industry and strategic financial experience to board position

Richard_Holoman(DALLAS—August 22, 2017) Tella Firma Foundations, a company that is revolutionizing the construction industry, today announced that it has added Richard (Dick) Holoman as an independent outside director to its board of directors. Holoman spent more than 30 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers and its predecessor Price Waterhouse, in roles involving strategic finance, consulting, and large account management.

Holoman joined Price Waterhouse in 1976 in Charlotte, N.C., and was admitted to the partnership in 1987. His significant industry experience spans financial institutions, oil field services, construction and engineering, automotive retailing, and U.S. inbound investment. Functionally, he has helped clients with many complex problems (domestic and foreign), including mergers and acquisitions, cross-border and cash repatriation strategies, and tax and financial controversies. Upon retirement in 2010, he continued significant teaching responsibilities for the firm for several years.

According to Jim Fontaine, CEO of Tella Firma Foundations, “We are very pleased that Dick has agreed to lend his significant industry and financial experience to the Tella Firma board, and we look forward to his counsel as we take advantage of market opportunities and manage our growth.”

Holoman has held board positions with Vedero Software, prior to its merger with Murata Electronics (Japan), as well as DxUpClose, an early stage in vitro diagnostic company. He previously held board positions with the Charlotte Choral Society, Orpheus Chamber Singers, The Vogel Alcove, and The Dallas Opera. Holoman was an advanced course instructor for the U.S. Army at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Virginia. He earned an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s degree in music education from East Carolina University.

The Tella Firma foundation system has been used by dozens of builders, with more than 1,000 foundations installed, and is backed by seven issued patents. Tella Firma foundations are designed to protect a building’s foundation from damaging active soil movement with a field-tested process of elevating a slab-on-grade foundation using piers, creating a protective void between the ground and the foundation itself. This application isolates the slab from active soils and guards it from unexpected movement. Tella Firma’s solution is an environmentally friendly, green installation process that avoids the need for any type of chemical or water injection into the soil as part of construction.

About Tella Firma Foundations
Dallas-based Tella Firma is a construction technology firm that is revolutionizing the way foundations are built. Tella Firma gets its name from the Latin words meaning “strong home.” Foundations with the company’s product have been installed in residential and light commercial projects in Texas and Colorado, and the company continues to expand into new markets throughout the region. For additional information, visit tellafirma.com.

FIND OUT WHY TEXAS HAS SOME OF THE MOST EXPANSIVE SOILS

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The Dirt on Soils in Texas

All soils are not created equal. And when building a foundation, these differences in soil types become critically important.

Some soils tend to act like a sponge, expanding when water is absorbed and shrinking when they dry out. These soils are known by several names – expansive soils, active soils, shrink-swell soils, expandable clay – but the end result is often the same: Expansive soils can cause foundation problems and threaten the structural integrity of any building constructed on a site with this type of soil composition.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that half of all homes in the U.S. are built on expansive soils, and half of those homes will experience some level of expansive soil damage. The estimated damage to buildings, roads and other structures built on expansive soil exceeds $15 billion annually, according to an international engineering study, and the ASCE has stated, historically, that expansive soils account for more home-related damage each year than floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined.

Globally, expansive soils create serious engineering problems and economic losses in at least 19 countries. Damage in the U.S. is generally concentrated in certain parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota.

Of the approximate 1.2M annual U.S. housing starts, Tella Firma estimates that over a quarter million housing starts occur in areas with active soils. Texas alone accounts for over 40% of the housing starts with active clay soils.

What’s Underground in Texas?
TellaFirma_TexasSoilThe Central Texas corridor and coastal areas of Texas have some of the most pronounced regions of expansive soils in the country, and these areas are ripe for enabling foundation damage. Weather itself can pose a problem, with the effects of Texas rain and wind contributing to soil movement and erosion at the base of foundations. Beyond that, rapid population growth, increased urbanization of Texas suburbs, and the expansion into reclaimed farmland are contributing factors to a significant increase in construction where expansive soils are present.

Texas is divided into 21 different Major Land Resource Areas that have similar or related soils, vegetation, topography, climate, and land uses. Here’s what we find in the major metropolitan areas:

  • Dallas – The Dallas area is in the Blackland Prairie, with soils comprised of three primary types (Austin chalk, Ozan Marl and Eagle Ford), often referred to as “cracking clays” due to the large deep cracks caused by dry weather. The unique blend of soil, with a higher clay content, is susceptible to significant expansion that can lead to foundation issues.
  • Fort Worth – As part of the Grand Prairie region, Fort Worth soils include both Eagle Ford and Woodbine, a composition that is entirely different from that found in Dallas, but still represents a threat to the integrity of foundations.
  • Houston – Houston soils are somewhat similar to those found in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, but the presence of sand can create a different type of reaction. Sandy soil presents the unique ability for soil to shift laterally underneath a foundation.
  • Austin and San Antonio – Central Texas soil conditions can vary significantly from location to location within a community. For example, the east side of Austin and northeast San Antonio both feature very expansive soils compared to the more stable western areas of both cities, where the Hill Country begins. The Hill Country of Texas has a rockier terrain that generally will provide more stability for a foundation.

Foundation Solutions
The types of foundations used in homes and other buildings vary by region, climate and building size, but the foundation method used most frequently in new home construction in Texas – the concrete slab-on-grade foundation – registers the poorest performance on expansive soils. When soils expand and contract, pressure can create uplift against concrete slabs, causing damages such as cracking, water leaks, broken pipes or water lines, and interior drywall damage.

While a slab-on-grade foundation generally is less expensive than an elevated solution, builders utilizing this method may be sacrificing quality and creating a higher risk of foundation damage in the future. As an alternative, Tella Firma’s solution offers a cost-effective elevated slab option that protects the foundation against soil movement, but represents a much lower cost than a traditional pier-and-beam. 

Even in the presence of volatile Texas dirt, the Tella Firma foundation rests on solid ground.

4 OPTIONS THAT DELIVER THE GREATEST RETURNS TO CUSTOM HOME BUILDERS

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Custom Home Options that Pay Off

TellaFirma_BuilderingPlansSometimes the proof is in the details. By paying special attention to the home features and options buyers value the most, custom builders can help ensure their projects command the highest price at the time of sale, while also protecting the buyer’s investment and value over the long term.

We’ve identified four primary areas where the addition of extras can really pay off.

Energy efficiency.
According to real estate industry research, 80% of homebuyers say that energy efficiency has a somewhat to very important impact on their selection decision. In fact, Energy Star-rated appliances are at the top of the list of most-wanted home features, and an Energy Star rating for the whole home is very high on the list as well.

Beyond appliances, homebuyers prefer energy efficient features such as LED lighting, intelligent HVAC systems, and tankless water heaters. Also, it’s hard to go wrong with high-quality insulation and energy-efficient windows that reduce heating and cooling costs.

TellaFirma_NewHomeSmart home features.
Research also shows that between 65-85% of homebuyers are willing to spend more for homes with smart technology installed, with the Millennial generation representing the demographic group with the greatest interest in this area. Think about pre-wiring the home and installing some of the features that tech-savvy consumers want most – wireless home security systems, programmable thermostats, security cameras, lighting control systems, and wireless home audio systems, for example.

Design features.
The design of the home itself is another important consideration, as 65% of homebuyers say the most influential characteristic when buying a home is “living space and number of rooms that meet their needs,” according to a study from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Prospective buyers tend to focus first on the number of rooms and details of the floor plan: 60% of homebuyers are willing to pay more for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, for example, and 40% would pay more for an eat-in kitchen. Buyers also appreciate features such as flex rooms, garage storage and outdoor living space.

Beyond considerations related to the layout and flow of the home, buyers focus on quality and appearance when looking at most home components (such as flooring, doors, kitchen countertops, cabinets and carpeting) but also focus on brand name when it comes to appliances. More than 50% of prospective buyers would pay more for granite countertops in the kitchen, and 41% are willing to pay more for stainless steel appliances. 

Structure.
Finally, certain aspects of the structure of the home itself will appeal to homebuyers looking for long-term value in their investment. Quality materials used in windows, roofing and ventilation are key considerations for many homebuyers.

The foundation of the home cannot be overlooked in its importance to the performance of the structure over time. One new option from Tella Firma is an elevated slab foundation, which appeals to buyers in many locations due to its cost-effective solution that protects the foundation against movement in areas with unstable soil conditions.

The Bottom Line.
If you keep these four areas in mind when planning your next custom home build, it will likely pay off in the long run – for you and your buyer.

NEW SCHOOL BUILDING GETS AN “A” FOR FOUNDATION

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Innovative Foundation Solution Receives Good Marks at Spanish House Immersion School

Tella_Firma_School

The new Spanish House Immersion School in Dallas gets an “A” for design and functionality, but the site it’s built on almost received a failing grade before construction began. “It was one of the most complex type of building sites you could have,” says Richard Atchison, whose firm, FORM studios Architecture, completed the new building for the elementary school after utilizing an innovative solution from Tella Firma to build a solid foundation on unsolid ground.

When FORM studios began planning for the new school near White Rock Lake in Dallas, it found the building site less than ideal for a standard foundation on piers. The site was located in a former flood plain, near a park and golf course, and featured the deep clay soil that is typical of neighborhoods in and around East Dallas. To make matters worse, the low lying elevation required 8 feet of land fill to elevate the building pad above flood plain levels before foundation work could begin.

The construction team was worried about potential soil movement that might cause a traditional foundation to become unstable and fail over time. Soil remediation was one option, which would require a 10-12 foot excavation before layering in new soil and non-expansive fill to prevent further expansion, but this method would add $3-5 per square foot and add more than a month to the construction schedule. Water or chemical injection was not an option for this site because of the high water table and environmental concerns. 

The potential vertical rise (PVR) of the soil suggested that a suspended foundation and pier solution were required. In addition, the high water table meant the drillers would probably hit water as they installed the piers. Seeking a more affordable solution that wouldn’t require the additional expense of remediation, the team first considered bell piers to avoid the water table, and also considered a slab-on-void box foundation, which would cost between $25-30 per square foot.

Then the team learned about Tella Firma Foundations from TEXCON concrete contractors, which had experience installing more than 100 foundations utilizing the Tella Firma process in residential construction. Tella Firma uses a field-tested, patented process to elevate a slab-on-grade foundation using piers, to create a protective void between the ground and the foundation itself. Tella Firma’s solution for the Spanish House school would include an 8-inch raised foundation that isolates the slab from active soils and guards it from unexpected movement.

The Tella Firma suspended solution works well when high PVR and settlement are present on a site, which was the case for the Spanish House school. The elevator in the building still required a slab-on-void box foundation on four piers to support the additional weight, with an 8-inch void to match the Tella Firma foundation, which was lifted around the elevator pit. The foundation also was designed to support and counterbalance a scissor-lift platform used during construction and the installation of plumbing and other components.

The project was completed on time and on budget during a 7-month construction schedule, ready to open for the new school year in August 2016. Atchison said he was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the building’s foundation, and noted that FORM studios would have been unable to complete the project on budget otherwise. In total, the Tella Firma solution saved the builder close to $100,000, and the school was able to consider additional design features based on this savings.

FORM studios is now working with Tella Firma on The Kingdom Life Church project in Frisco,  Texas, and Atchison says the excellent report card from the Spanish House Immersion School means his firm will definitely work with Tella Firma on other projects.

WATCH YOUR STEP!

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Jim Fontaine, CEO, Tella Firma Foundations

Watch_Your_Step_Blueprint_Tellafirma

The foundation of a quality constructed home or building is the foundation. While architects and home buyers are typically focused on style, design and features, a builder’s first focus – before construction even begins – is preparing the lot and laying the foundation.

But it’s not quite as simple as just clearing the land and pouring cement. A builder first needs to consider the type of foundation that is best suited for a particular project, which requires evaluating a number of factors that may steer you toward one solution or another. We call these the “Five Cs”:

  1. Composition of soil.  Everything starts with a good soils report from a Geotechnical Engineer. This report will tell the builder the composition of the soils on the building site, including the potential activity of the soils over time at your specific site – not just the top layer of soil but also underneath. A soil test that gathers soils samples down 20-30 feet will provide the full picture. Active soils act like a sponge, expanding significantly when wet and shrinking when dry.
  2. Condition of lot.  Are there a lot of trees and vegetation on the lot, or is the lot barren? Will you be removing a lot of trees and vegetation or adding trees and landscaping once the house is finished? Both will alter the soil conditions under the foundation, either increasing or decreasing moisture content. You also need to check the drainage and terrain – is it primarily flat or hilly? If the builder needs to level the lot by either removing or adding soil, that will also change the condition.
  3. Construction type.  Beyond soil conditions, the type of construction and the specific location will affect the decision about a foundation. For example, some residential areas may be zoned for certain types of construction. Will your home’s exterior be masonry such as stone or brick, or will it have siding? Will the roof be tile or composite or shingle? Masonry exteriors and tile roofs are heavy materials and will increase the load on the foundation. The foundation must be designed to carry the loads of the structure and also withstand any potential movement in the soils.
  4. Clock.  The timeframe for construction is usually a factor, particularly when considering weather and potential delays. If the builder needs to perform dirt work such as cutting or filling the existing terrain to create a level building site, that will require additional time. In addition, if soil conditions require the builder to replace active soils with more stable soils, or inject the soils with chemical stabilizing liquids, this will also add significant time to the timeline.
  5. Cost.  The cost of the foundation you choose is a key consideration, and your decision may depend on several factors. For example, a lower-cost slab can be installed if remediation is performed to active soils, reducing or eliminating possible soil movement, but that comes at a cost. Alternatively, if the soils are not remediated and a low-cost slab is installed on active soils, there is a high probability that foundation damage could occur in the future, leading to post-construction costs. Although more expensive, the most effective foundation against possible soils movement is an elevated slab, such as a pier-and-beam system that takes soil movement out of the equation.

As you think about each of these factors, there will be a number of tradeoffs to consider. One of the main considerations is installation cost vs. quality, since a higher-quality foundation can often be more expensive and may require more time to install. While a simple slab-on-ground foundation generally is less expensive than an elevated solution, you could be sacrificing quality and creating a higher risk of foundation damage in the future. 

For custom or higher-end properties, you and your builder may agree that a quality foundation is worth the investment. Even with elevated foundations, there are options to streamline the process. For example, Tella Firma’s solution offers a cost-effective elevated slab option that protects the foundation against soil movement, but is a much lower cost than a traditional pier-and-beam. In addition, utilizing Tella Firma helical piers in the construction process will allow for very fast pier installation, even in bad weather. 

All of these factors are important in the decision about what foundation to use for your project. If you and your builder take time to consider the Five Cs, you will be well on your way toward building the confidence that comes from knowing your project is built on a solid foundation.

PLANNING YOUR DREAM HOME – REMEMBER TO LOOK BEYOND THE SURFACE

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How to Make Sure Your Dream Home is a Sound Investment

tellafirma_dreamhomeAfter years of wishing, saving and planning, the time has finally come to build the home of your dreams! Most homeowners will spend plenty of time in advance thinking about the floorplan and visual look of the home, with a particular focus on the various surfaces and features that are visible throughout the residence – floors, countertops, appliances, tiles, and more.

Certainly these design features make a big impact. But it’s equally important to think beyond the surface and consider other features that can make a home more energy efficient, more comfortable, more sustainable, and perhaps save money over time. Here are some of the key areas where you can take that look beyond the surface.

Inside the Walls 

Think Smart. It helps to plan ahead if you want to incorporate smart-home technology, and you need to make sure you have an adequate number of electrical outlets, in-wall transmitters and data cables to support computers, entertainment systems, home security and the latest technological goodies. Consider asking your builder to add a neutral wire at each wall switch, required for many types of products, as well as deep junction boxes that offer more flexibility when you’re selecting technology. A whole-house surge suppressor is a good idea too.

Don’t Forget the Airwaves. Much of today’s smart home technology runs on Wi-Fi. And with larger homes, installing multiple routers will provide better connectivity throughout the house and ensure a strong signal for each device. Make sure your new home comes with plenty of wires and cables, and think about placement carefully.

Stand Tall. If you’re looking for strength and stability in construction, engineered studs may be the answer. They are more expensive than traditional lumber products, but some contractors believe the outcome may be worth the expense, particularly in rooms where cabinets must hang straight or where an architectural feature takes center stage.

TellaFirma_DreamHomeBuildUnder the Floors 

Nice and Toasty. One of the most useful and luxurious features in a new home may be radiant heating under the floors in certain rooms. Not only can it help save money on heating costs, but most homeowners appreciate this feature in bathrooms and kitchens where cold tile floors can present a chilling experience during winter months.

Quality from the Ground Up. Each new home project begins with a solid foundation, but the performance of the foundation itself may be hindered over time by unstable soil conditions. One solution is a new type of elevated slab foundation from Tella Firma, which protects the foundation against soil movement at a much lower cost than an alternative pier-and-beam foundation.

Above the Ceiling 

High and Dry. High-quality insulation in the attic can provide an energy-efficient solution that saves money in the long term by keeping a check on energy usage. Closed-cell foam spray insulation is preferred by many homeowners for its strength, performance and the tight barrier it creates against air and moisture.

The Right Light.  LED lighting not only produces a brighter light than conventional bulbs, these bulbs are also more energy efficient and last longer. Homeowners purchase fewer bulbs over time, and see real savings on energy bills and maintenance.

Get Smart. Most HVAC manufacturers offer smart thermostats that allow homeowners to monitor and control temperatures and usage through a phone app, but newer intelligent HVAC systems can go much further by diagnosing problems and improving the performance of heating and cooling technology.

When planning a dream home, if you keep these ideas in mind, your home will not only be a dream to look at, it will also represent a long-term investment that’s efficient, comfortable and strong.

TELLA FIRMA FOUNDATIONS SURPASSES 1,000TH FOUNDATION MILESTONE

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Tella Firma Foundations Surpasses  1,000th Foundation Milestone, Celebrates Installation at Lennar’s Parkside Development in Irving, Texas

Milestone signifies Tella Firma’s strategic move toward volume home builders

Lenar_Homes_TellaFirma(IRVING, Texas—May 17, 2017) Tella Firma Foundations (www.tellafirma.com) announced today that the company’s elevated foundation solution has been purchased and installed in 1,000 homes to date, as Tella Firma accelerates its growth strategy throughout Texas and the Southwest.

Tella Firma’s partnership with Lennar Homes exemplifies Tella Firma’s strategic transition to work with volume builders of subdivision communities, in addition to the company’s initial focus on custom home builders. Tella Firma signed an exclusive agreement with Lennar in 2015 to bring its elevated slab foundations to the Parkside development in Irving, Texas, marking the first such agreement to work with a volume builder. Subsequent agreements have included volume deals with Pacesetter Homes and Avi Homes, both for the Whisper Valley planned community in East Austin. As Tella Firma continues to ramp up this aspect of its growth strategy, the company expects to reach 10,000 foundation installations per year within the next five years.

“This achievement demonstrates the success of Tella Firma’s innovative solution, not only among custom home builders but among some of the nation’s most prominent production builders as well,” said Jim Fontaine, CEO of Tella Firma. “We are experiencing greater acceptance of our product among all home builders, not only because it represents a cost-effective option, but also because builders recognize that our foundations can be a key selling point for homebuyers based on the quality and long-term value.”

In many areas of Texas and the Southwest region, active soils can cause foundation problems due to movement and settlement. By using a field-tested, patented process of elevating a slab-on-grade foundation using piers, Tella Firma creates a protective void between the ground and the foundation itself. This application isolates the slab from active soils and guards it from unexpected movement. It also significantly reduces the risk of cracks and movement in conventional slabs that typically occur in later years.

“Lennar is known for its commitment to quality, value and integrity as the underlying foundation upon which our company was built,” said John Bishop, Vice President of Construction for Lennar Homes. “These principles are demonstrated further through our partnership with Tella Firma for the Parkside development. We have implemented the Tella Firma system in Parkside for almost two years, and have received positive feedback from our homebuyers.”

The Tella Firma foundation system is based on commercial engineering principles in practice for over 50 years. Tella Firma foundations utilize a green installation process to avoid the need for any type of chemical or water injection into the soil under the foundation. In addition, the air pocket created under the slab provides an insulation layer between the floor of the home and the ground.

About Lennar Homes

Lennar Corporation, founded in 1954, is one of the nation’s largest builders of quality homes for all generations. The Company builds affordable, move-up and retirement homes primarily under the Lennar brand name. Lennar’s Financial Services segment provides mortgage financing, title insurance and closing services for both buyers of the Company’s homes and others. Lennar’s Rialto segment is a vertically integrated asset management platform focused on investing throughout the commercial real estate capital structure. Lennar’s Multifamily segment is a nationwide developer of high-quality multifamily rental properties. Previous press releases and further information about the Company may be obtained at the “Investor Relations” section of the Company’s website, www.lennar.com.

About Tella Firma Foundations

Dallas-based Tella Firma is a construction technology firm that is revolutionizing the way home foundations are built. Tella Firma gets its name from the Latin words meaning “strong home.” Foundations with the company’s product have been installed in residential and light commercial projects in Texas and Colorado, and the company continues to expand into new markets throughout the region. For additional information, visit tellafirma.com.

DISRUPTION FOR CONSTRUCTION? Part 2

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Jim Fontaine, CEO, Tella Firma Foundations

There are big changes coming that will affect building and construction.  In part two of a two-part series, Jim Fontaine discusses future trends, including how technology is poised to transform the construction of foundations for residential buildings.

Start at Ground Level: The Foundation

Foundations represent one area where technology can step in and help eliminate some of the challenges we face in construction. Beyond the scarcity of labor felt throughout the construction industry, foundations are prime for disruption based on several factors.  First, building a foundation is an inefficient process, and inefficient markets tend to offer the greatest opportunity for change. Second, costs are increasing – not only labor costs due to demand for higher-paying jobs, but also materials costs including the concrete needed to build foundations. Third, in an attempt to keep up with demand, corners are often cut, reducing the quality of the foundation and potentially leading to foundation failure in the future.

Residential_Construction_TellaFirmaAlmost half the cost of installing a residential slab foundation is related to the cost of concrete, with the remaining costs from steel rebar, cables, and slab make-up labor.   Over half the cost of installing a concrete pier is driven by labor. But what if there was a way to consistently install a high-quality foundation while reducing both concrete and labor costs?

Our company’s work during the past few years proves that an advanced foundation solution – utilizing technology to reduce both labor costs and the amount of concrete used – can offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional construction methods. This approach utilizes a hybrid model featuring an elevated slab-on-grade foundation that introduces a commercial quality solution to residential construction.

One key to this solution has been the introduction of a helical pier rather than a concrete- or steel-cased pier, which offers a number of benefits:  faster installation, less dependence on weather, and reduction of labor-related errors. It also uses less concrete and is less dependent on labor than other methods. As such, the cost is reaching the tipping point where the investment in technology is cost-competitive with more traditional options.

Is There a Drone in Your Future?

Are there other areas of construction where we should be looking for similar solutions?  Most certainly, and we should embark in that direction. We’re already seeing an impact from the use of drones for surveying and tracking progress at building sites, and some builders are beginning to examine the potential for pre-fabricated construction more seriously. 3D printing may hold promise for future construction of various types of projects, while other advancements in automation – robotic bricklayers, for instance – could one day improve productivity on site.

These developments hold some promise. And while some builders may choose a trade-off, perhaps sacrificing quality and reliability for lower cost, our goal as industry leaders should be to achieve the highest quality available for every project. I’m convinced we can achieve this result, while also reducing materials and labor costs, through improvements in technology.

The impending housing shortage indicates that demand for construction will be strong for the foreseeable future, yet the building industry will be competing with other sectors of the economy for a limited labor supply.  The time is right for us to harness solutions that can revolutionize the building industry, reducing costs while improving quality.

DISRUPTION FOR CONSTRUCTION? Part 1

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Jim Fontaine, CEO, Tella Firma Foundations

There are big changes coming that will affect building and construction.  In part one of a two-part series, Jim Fontaine explains some of the trends and factors contributing to disruption in the industry.

Construction_Worker_TellaFirmaOver the past decade, technology has been credited – or blamed – with disrupting any number of industries. While some old-line industries have felt threatened by these new ways, the smart players recognize how to harness new uses of technology to improve processes or to gain a competitive advantage.

I believe we’re about to witness this exact type of change brought about by disruption to the construction industry. Let me explain.

One of the biggest challenges facing our industry today is the shortage of labor. According to some projections, as many as one million new construction workers will be needed over the next five years to meet the demand for building, particularly in housing. But unemployment is already near record lows, and demographic and immigration trends aren’t helping to produce an adequate supply of workers. The result? It will be difficult – if not impossible – to fill the need for construction over the long term.

Where Have All the Construction Workers Gone?

There are almost a third fewer construction workers today than there were 10 years ago. The potential for a stricter immigration policy could reduce the pool of labor even further. Foreign-born workers represent close to 30 percent of all construction employment, and the percentage of foreign-born laborers is even greater for specialists, such as roofers and plasterers, skills that are key for residential construction. Overall, the shortage of labor has already had a negative impact on the rate of new home construction, and is the number one challenge builders face when planning new residential housing projects.

What can this industry do to meet the demand we expect to see in the future? The answer has to come from technology.

In many segments of the economy – manufacturing is a notable example – technology has been used to automate some tasks and improve efficiency. But with few exceptions, we haven’t seen these types of improvements within the construction industry, and certainly not on the residential construction side. Although many people have speculated about what automation might bring, we’re still building homes and apartments pretty much the way we did 50 years ago.

The Technology Tipping Point

I believe the situation is about to change. We may finally be reaching the tipping point where technology can step in and help eliminate some of the challenges we face in construction. This tipping point will come when return-on-investment in technology becomes cost-competitive with existing methods of construction.

Look where venture capital funding is being directed in the construction industry, and you’ll see a clear focus toward technology solutions. Globally, financing of construction technology companies has experienced dramatic growth, registering a fivefold increase from 2010 to 2015. So far, much of this technological innovation has been directed toward the front end of the process – areas such as design, project management and logistics instead of the construction process itself. But there are other areas where technology is poised to make an impact during construction.

Next week:  Jim examines technology trends that will affect construction, including new developments in how foundations are built.

MERITAGE HOMES SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH TELLA FIRMA FOUNDATIONS FOR PATENTED SLAB FOUNDATION TECHNOLOGY

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Meritage Homes Signs Agreement With Tella Firma Foundations For Patented Slab Foundation Technology

Tella Firma’s slab lifting mechanisms and helical piers to be utilized throughout two new subdivisions under development in Irving, Texas

MeritageHomes_2(DALLAS—March 21, 2017) Meritage Homes (www.meritagehomes.com), the nation’s eighth-largest homebuilder, and Tella Firma Foundations (www.tellafirma.com), a Dallas-based technology construction firm, announced today that Meritage has signed an agreement to incorporate Tella Firma’s innovative elevated slab foundation in 100% of all new Meritage homes that will be built in the Villas at Las Colinas and Enclave at Northgate communities in Irving, Texas.

As part of this agreement, Meritage Homes will utilize Tella Firma’s complete slab foundation system, which includes an integrated slab lifting mechanism and modern steel helical piers to elevate the foundation off the ground and provide a protective void from active clay soils. Recognized for its distinctive style, quality construction and energy-efficient homes, Meritage Homes selected Tella Firma’s patented system to provide an affordable and innovative solution with the highest level of performance for the foundations they are building in Irving.

“We are known for setting the standard in energy efficiency and in many other aspects of design and construction that make a difference in the lives of our homeowners,” said Stephanie MacLean, division president of Meritage Homes. “Tella Firma gives the home a commercial quality foundation and also includes a 10-year warranty that gives us and our homebuyers peace of mind.”

In many areas of Texas, active soils can cause foundation problems due to movement and settlement. By using a field-tested, patented process of elevating a slab-on-grade foundation using piers, Tella Firma creates a protective void between the ground and the foundation itself. This application isolates the slab from active soils and guards it from unexpected movement.

“Meritage Homes embraces the vision of applying advanced technology to alleviate some of the problems that have plagued the home building industry in Texas,” said Jim Fontaine, CEO of Tella Firma Foundations. “Tella Firma provides a complete system that includes a slab lifting mechanism and modern steel helical piers. The helical piers replace traditional concrete piers but can be installed in a fraction of the time. We’re excited to partner with a recognized industry leader on this project.”

The Tella Firma foundation system is based on commercial engineering principles in practice for over 50 years. Tella Firma foundations utilize a green installation process to avoid the need for any type of chemical or water injection into the soil under the foundation. In addition, the air pocket created under the slab provides an insulation layer between the floor of the home and the ground.

About Meritage
Meritage Homes is the eighth-largest public homebuilder in the United States, based on homes closed in 2016. Meritage Homes builds and sells single-family homes for first-time, move-up, luxury and active adult buyers across the Western, Southern and Southeastern United States. Meritage Homes builds in markets including Sacramento, San Francisco Bay area, southern coastal and Inland Empire markets in California; Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Phoenix/Scottsdale, Green Valley and Tucson, Arizona; Denver and Fort Collins, Colorado; Orlando, Tampa and south Florida; Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina; Greenville-Spartanburg and York County, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta, Georgia.

Meritage Homes has designed and built over 100,000 homes in its 31-year history, and has a reputation for its distinctive style, quality construction, and positive customer experience. Meritage Homes is the industry leader in energy-efficient homebuilding and has received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence Award every year since 2013 for innovation and industry leadership in energy efficient homebuilding.

For more information, visit www.meritagehomes.com. 

About Tella Firma Foundations
Dallas-based Tella Firma is a construction technology firm that is revolutionizing the way home foundations are built. Tella Firma gets its name from the Latin words meaning “strong home.” Foundations with the company’s product have been installed in residential and light commercial projects in Texas and Colorado, and the company continues to expand into new markets throughout the region. For additional information, visit tellafirma.com.