Posts

RYAN GOARD IS NAMED CEO OF TELLA FIRMA FOUNDATIONS

(DALLAS-August 5, 2019) Tella Firma Foundations, a construction-tech company, today announced that Ryan Goard has been named Chief Executive Officer, in addition to his current title as President. Ryan has successfully run the company since joining as President in 2018.

“I’m very pleased to announce that the board has unanimously promoted Ryan Goard to the position of CEO and a member of the Board of Directors,” said Jim Fontaine, Chairman of the Board of Tella Firma Foundations. “The Board is very pleased with Ryan’s performance, and we believe that he is fully ready to take on the full role as President, CEO, and Board Member.”

Goard spent the past twenty years in various sales management roles in the construction and manufacturing industries. In addition to leading the company through two successful quarters this year, he also has helped spearhead a push into the Oil and Gas Industry.

“I am fortunate to be a part of such an extremely talented team that is driven to carry out the vision of Tella Firma,” said Goard. “I’m very honored with this recognition and look forward to leading our team to prominence in the construction industry.”

The Tella Firma foundation system has been used by dozens of builders, with nearly 2,000 foundations installed in commercial and residential projects 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 castle or structure.” 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.

TELLA FIRMA NAMES JIM ROACH AND TIM LOONEY TO ITS ADVISORY BOARD AS IT EXPANDS INTO COMMERCIAL MARKET

, ,

Tella Firma Foundations Names Jim Roach and Tim Looney to its Advisory Board as it Expands into Commercial Market

(DALLAS—March 19, 2018) Tella Firma Foundations, a construction-tech company, today announced that it has added two new Advisory Board members – Jim Roach and Tim Looney. An Advisory Board member acts as strategic advisor and sounding board for the company, supporting its mission to revolutionize the foundation industry.

“Our goal is to form a group of world-class advisors who will provide sound advice while guiding and challenging our thinking as we pursue our strategy for growth,” Fontaine said. “Both Jim and Tim bring a solid business background and specific industry expertise that will benefit Tella Firma as it expands into commercial markets. We are very pleased they have agreed to lend their talents to the company.”

Jim Roach brings 44 years of experience in the commercial construction markets in his role as Commercial Advisor.  He currently works for Tribble & Stephens Construction in Houston, serving as manager of preconstruction activities (bidding through design phase) for the company’s commercial retail, office, mid- and high-rise residential, lodging and hospitality, and warehouse design-and-build projects throughout the region. His prior experience includes serving as vice president in charge of estimation for Jordan Foster, a large commercial construction company. Roach is a retired licensed structural engineer with a civil engineering degree from Clemson University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tim Looney brings over 40 years of experience including executive management of the design and manufacture of ruggedized precision products. He is currently president of TWL Group, a private investment firm with holdings in real estate, healthcare, financial services, social media, and operations/services companies. Prior to founding his current business in 2006, Looney was co-founder of Optex Systems Inc., a defense contractor that produced sighting systems for the U.S. military, which are used in various applications such as Abrams M1 tanks, Stryker armored combat vehicles, and Assault Amphibious Vehicles. He completed the sale of Optex to Pequot Capital in 2006. Looney has served on multiple private, public and non-profit boards during the past 30 years, and currently serves as a director for Vital Art and Science, a medical software company, and Encore Propane, a commercial propane service provider. He served with Fontaine as co-chair of the North Texas Angel Network in 2012.

The Tella Firma foundation system has been used by dozens of builders, with more than 1,200 foundations installed in commercial and residential projects, 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.

TELLA FIRMA WITH RON DAVIS CUSTOM HOMES

INNOVATIVE FOUNDATION SOLUTION SERVES A DUAL PURPOSE FOR MIXED-CONSTRUCTION KINGDOM LIFE CHRISTIAN CENTER IN FRISCO

, ,

FORM studios Architecture planned the building as a mixed-type construction project, with one-half of the building constructed with wood for a one-story classroom built on a slab foundation, and the other half a taller steel structure with columns to support a wide-open area for the sanctuary. Each side would need a different treatment for the foundation to deliver the proper support.   

The building site presented additional challenges. Geotechnical reports indicated the site contained very expansive soils with a high PVR (potential vertical rise), and the original plan was to use water and chemical injections with a pier-and-beam foundation to ensure stability. Yet the builder encountered a significant amount of water underground when the drilling began, indicating another approach would be necessary.

According to Jason Presley of FORM studios, the firm had worked with the same contractor when building the Spanish House Immersion School in Dallas the year before, and had success working with the Tella Firma Foundations solution, which elevates the foundation off the ground and away from the expansive soils. This time, Tella Firma helped create a hybrid approach for the Kingdom Life Christian Center, with lifting piers supporting the slab under the classroom and sanctuary sides of the structure, and non-lifting, cased piers supporting the steel columns only in the sanctuary. The team designed a pour strip in between the two sections of the building, and metal stud infill was utilized around the columns. The two sides of the foundation were lifted at different times.    

Mr. Presley said the hybrid solution required a little more planning and preparation at the outset, but was well worth the effort in terms of saving money on construction. Beyond the savings realized based on the projected cost of a pier-and-beam foundation, the originally planned remediation of the soil would have increased both the time and cost of the project overall.

According to Mr. Presley, one of the most important considerations for this job was to have a good engineer who could assume responsibility for the design of the foundation around the steel grid. And the outcome demonstrates the benefit of looking at both sides of the equation.

SUSTAINABILITY IN BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION – WHERE DO WE FIT IN?

, , ,

How does Tella Firma contribute to sustainability?

Sustainable_ConstructionWe hear a lot about sustainability throughout business, and the construction industry is no exception.  As one of the largest components of the industrial sector, construction accounts for as much as 10% of the world GDP and around 12% in the U.S.  At Tella Firma, we’re part of a much larger multidisciplinary industry that may have an impact on the environment.  As such, the industry as a whole has both the opportunity and the responsibility to seek ways to utilize sustainable processes and minimize this impact.

Looking around the industry, there are several key areas of focus where stakeholders in the building and construction sector are beginning to make an impact in terms of sustainability: building design, use of materials, energy use, and impact on land.

In the area of design, the concept of “cradle-to-cradle” design is gaining traction, based on the principles of using materials that can later be reconstituted into other products, and designing buildings that can serve multiple purposes.  For example, designs that allow for reconfiguration, that provide easy access for maintenance, and that facilitate replacement of shorter-life-span components, will support the transition from one use to the next.  Cradle-to-cradle builders use production techniques that are not only efficient, but are essentially waste-free.

As construction is believed to consume about half of all resources we take from nature (including about 25% of the wood harvest), building materials are a prime focus in sustainability efforts.  Solutions include not only an increased use of recycled and reclaimed materials, but also innovative efforts such as utilizing recycled construction and demolition (C&D) materials in new construction, thus avoiding the need to mine untouched resources while also eliminating the disposal of construction waste.

On a related note, the selection of materials in the building process also has an impact on energy usage.  Since much of the energy used in construction relates to the production of bulk materials including steel, cement, paper, plastic and aluminum, designing buildings with alternate materials, or with more efficient use of materials, also will reduce energy consumption.

For example, the production of cement, which is indispensable for construction, accounts for about 5% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  Tella Firma’s process for building a slab-on-grade foundation consumes on average 25-30% less concrete than alternate methods, which not only saves money but also helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced through cement production.

The use of land has many potential effects on the environment, caused by factors including deforestation, agriculture and land development.  Some types of land development, such as suburbanization, can contribute to a number of environmental concerns, including increased air pollution and the formation of urban and suburban heat islands.  In addition, land pollution caused by the deposition of solid or liquid waste materials, on the land or underground, is a concern in terms of public health and longer-terms effects on the environment. 

Introducing chemicals into the environment through the land is one particular area of consideration when thinking about sustainability, and Tella Firma is proud that its innovative process for building an elevated slab-on-grade foundation does not require any type of pre-treatment for the soil, such as water or chemical injections that might change the composition of the soil or harm the environment.

One thing is certain: Responsible construction and development must continue, to keep up with growth in population, communities and businesses.  With Tella Firma’s green foundation solution, we’re doing our part to help the construction sector work toward a more sustainable future.

FIND OUT WHY TEXAS HAS SOME OF THE MOST EXPANSIVE SOILS

, , ,

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

, ,

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

, ,

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.

PLANNING YOUR DREAM HOME – REMEMBER TO LOOK BEYOND THE SURFACE

, ,

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.

DISRUPTION FOR CONSTRUCTION? Part 2

,

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.