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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, 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 ( 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,

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



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.



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.