Peter Polhemus, president and CEO of Chatham, Mass.–based design/build firm Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders (PSDAB), recently was named the NAHB's 2010 Custom Home Builder of the Year. The award recognizes the outstanding leadership—within the industry and the wider community—business practices, and craftsmanship of a builder who creates exceptional custom homes year after year.

Founded in 1996, PSDAB creates award-winning residences throughout Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and southeastern New England, but also does a substantial remodel/addition business and takes on commercial projects. The firm's clients originate from as close as New York and Boston to as far away as California, France, or The Netherlands, and most of the residences PSDAB builds are second or retirement homes.

Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders' principals (left to right) John DaSilva, AIA, Peter Polhemus, AIA, and Aaron Polhemus.
Courtesy Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders Polhemus Savery DaSilva Architects Builders' principals (left to right) John DaSilva, AIA, Peter Polhemus, AIA, and Aaron Polhemus.

The firm's strength lies in its ability to manage relationships and provide a seamless process for the client, according to Polhemus. PSDAB manages the entire process, from conceptual design and permitting through construction, landscape design, and landscape placement. Its design goal is always to help clients realize their individual desires and deliver a house that feels special while respecting its context. "Most of the projects we do are on the water, and there are numerous regulatory hurdles," Polhemus says. "We quarterback that whole process, because the value of our clients' land is dependent on what they can get approved. We really work to maximize our clients' desires to do all that they can do within the constraints of the regulations, and we place a major focus on understanding and managing their expectations, and then meeting or exceeding their expectations."

The past few years of recession haven't been easy for PSDAB, but Polhemus and his partners John R. DaSilva, AIA, the firm's design principal, and COO Aaron Polhemus honed their business model, establishing stronger controls, greater efficiencies, and across-the-board accountability.

"We've seen an 18 [percent] to 20 percent reduction in our gross, but it's been healthy for us in terms of the impact it's had on our business," Polhemus says.

Happily, the firm's strategic measures have enabled it to keep working until the local custom home market regains its health, which seems to be happening now. PSDAB's high-end clients seem to have recovered already from the effects of the recession, as the firm's project mix is returning to its pre-2008 ratio of 75 percent new construction and 25 percent renovation/addition.