Planning a Custom Home? Consider an Integrated Architecture and Construction Firm for Your Project

August 19, 2020


Text by Kristin Amico

The decision to design and build a new home or extensively renovate an existing home is cause for celebration. However, for many, it can also be a stressful process that requires a significant time investment. How can you simplify the process and eliminate the need to take on the role of project manager for your custom home or major renovation? Consider an integrated architecture and construction firm versus multiple contractors.

Aaron Polhemus, Owner and CEO of Polhemus Savery DaSilva (PSD), a leading integrated architectural design and construction firm in coastal southeastern New England, breaks down the advantages to a single source approach, where comprehensive services are provided to support all requirements of your project. He also shares questions to ask to ensure you find the correct firm to take your custom home vision and goals and make them a reality.

Unified Vision and Creative Collaboration

Historically, the building process has consisted of hiring multiple specialists who separately excel in their individual fields—architecture, construction, historic craftsmanship, and project management. The problem with that approach is that all of these experts work individually with minimal communication or team planning, and the final project does not always come in on time, budget, or with a cohesive vision.

Why are integrated design-build firms gaining popularity with clients? They provide their client with one team who is ultimately responsible for delivering on their dreams. With a multi-disciplinary in-house team that includes architects, contractors, construction managers, cost estimators and master craftspeople, the team works collaboratively with the client towards a unified vision during every step of the process.

“Having one firm with a wide range of experts on staff provides for one point of contact and seamless communication among team members. It also provides an integrated process that anticipates challenges, eliminates roadblocks, and ensures that the construction of the project is fully in line with the architectural plans and design choices approved by the client. It is important to have a unified team, dedicated to translating a client’s preliminary checklist into a functional and special home,” Polhemus notes. “A collaborative approach keeps clients informed, engaged, and excited.”

Tip: When meeting with a prospective firm, ask about their process for working with clients from initial inception to final completion. Find out how the firm translates your design vision and how they manage schedule, budget, and selections. Be sure to outline any concerns or areas where you have less tolerance for shifts versus areas where you are more open to variations.

Coordinated Administration

New construction and renovations across New England require keen architectural skills for blending old and new to create homes that fit into their landscape. The process also requires a near-encyclopedic knowledge of everything from building codes, conservation restrictions, zoning and historic requirements as well as other necessary approvals through permitting processes that vary by town. The advantage of using a fully integrated firm is that every step of the process is coordinated.

“In New England, the unique landscape or historic nature of homes can present additional challenges. Site selection and permitting are critical to the successful outcome of every project, and can often pose unforeseen challenges,” says Polhemus. “It is important to have a team that manages this process and can help solve for any issues that arise.”

Tip: Start the planning process early and engage with “the team” at the beginning of the design phase. Having a team in place that is well versed in and can manage all aspects of a project (Design, Permitting, and Construction) from the start will help to avoid surprises and unnecessary schedule delays. Ask questions if you are unsure about any steps in the process. A strong team will be able to guide you through each phase of the project and reduce your concerns.

Clear Accountability

“A big differentiator when working with PSD or an integrated architecture and construction firm is one clear source of accountability for the entire project,” adds Polhemus.

He explains that because one team is responsible for design, permitting, construction, schedules, and quality control, gaps are minimized. When using multiple vendors, a common complaint is that handoffs from one phase to the next are disorganized, and issues often fall through the cracks.

In addition to a cohesive design and communication process, the benefit of a single team is having one consistent point of contact from day one, allowing homeowners to focus on their vision rather than managing multiple vendors and contracts. A personalized approach makes all the difference.

Tip: Find out how the firm keeps you informed during your project. Who do you go to with any questions and does that change at all during the different phases? What type of systems are used to manage the project, scheduling, etc.? A team with strong systems and processes in place should be able to reduce your need to worry about many of the details and rather enjoy the process of designing and building.

Polhemus Savery DaSilva, Cape Cod, Mass.,


Photography by Brian Vanden Brink unless otherwise noted. 

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