Describing the "art of creating," San-P Homes owner Tom Pilla said "the trinomial equation of success is knowledge of the industry, and educational and business acumen."

Pilla has experience in all three areas.

He grew up in the trades. His grandfather was a plasterer from Italy and his father was a builder in Westchester County, N.Y., and New Milford.

Pilla studied engineering at college. And he has 40-plus years as a builder and has survived "five recessions."

He said the most important component in home building is developing the sites and knowing where to place homes. That entails research, knowing town regulations, and a look at data, aerial contours and the Litchfield County Soils, a document created in the 1970s that documents types of soils.

"You need to understand the land, know all the regulations in town and how they apply to the land," he said, emphasizing this is his favorite part of home building.

"A home has to fit the site," he said. "If you don't understand that, you don't belong in the business."

Pilla said he can easily "take a large tract of land from an aerial view" and see where the roads and houses will be located and how they will sit on the land.

-- Deborah Rose