A Tale of Two Cities

As a little girl Amber Beard worked with her father Myron Beard who owns High View Builders of Ellison Bay, often accompanying him to construction sites. Perhaps it was inevitable that she would become an architect, earning her degree from the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee. Her work today as Sustainability Manager with Bovis Lend Lease in Boston was no doubt a natural outcome of her childhood interest.

Beard has been with the company for four years and made a life in Boston, but in many respects, her heart remains in Ellison Bay. She has become a woman of two cities (albeit one of the cities is actually a village!). This double perspective involving one lifestyle intensely urban and another tourism-based rural proves useful as she deals with sustainability issues. But while the landscapes vary, the philosophy of sustainable design remains constant.

“Sustainability involves more than the environment,” Beard said. “There are economical and social ramifications.” In other words, a sustainable design must be more than “green.” At Bovis, she continued, the company adheres to a “triple bottom line that is a balance between the planet and people and profit,” one that is maintained without compromise.

“You can go totally all-out environment,” she explained, “but if it costs too much, if it puts local businesses out of business, if it is in balance with the planet and people but not with profit and ruins the local economy,” then it is out of balance and needs to be corrected. That is what the triple bottom line is all about.

“One of our biggest griefs in marketing,” she continued, “is that sustainability is perceived as just green or environmentally friendly. There must be a holistic approach.”

Door County, with its fragile ecology and its economic dependence upon tourism (factors occasionally at odds with each other), must be governed by a plan of sustainable development.

“The natural beauty that the county embodies,” Beard said, “is the reason for the culture and the economy we have here. The trees, the bluffs, the air, the water, make us unique in Wisconsin and in the United States. When we limit [franchise businesses] to protect the culture, sustainability plays a key role in our decisions.”

Beard “started at a low rung” at Bovis Lend Lease, and when her boss recognized her talents, she was offered the position of Sustainability Manager. Now as a part of her work she is being sent to a week-long training program in Sydney, Australia.

Bovis Lend Lease was founded as a small building company in 1885 by Charles Bovis in London. The Bovis Company has evolved into the present international corporation heading major construction projects on six continents.

The official philosophy of the sustainability division of Bovis Lend Lease is “to think holistically about sustainability” and to “integrate it into every aspect of our business strategy, planning and operation, by deploying proven processes, shared information systems and industry best practices” which are supported “by applying common operating principles to common social and environmental standards.”

Amber Beard’s life in Boston is quite different from that which she experienced growing up in Northern Door. While the city offers her access to rich cultural activity, a historical past, and career opportunities, “I miss the bluffs and the people,” she said. “I’m trying to get the best of both worlds.”

But it has been four years since Beard has returned to Ellison Bay for a visit. She lives in an apartment and uses public transportation, a modern urban woman with a successful career and dreams for the future.

“I would like to work in the planning of sustainable shelters for developing countries some day,” she said. “Increasing population is the greatest problem for sustainability in these countries.” The birthrate soars when families don’t have access to contraception and housing becomes critical. “People don’t have the knowledge of sustainability. The population shifts from rural to urban areas as people move looking for work and consequently they live in areas that become slums, places not sustainable, not organic. Housing [for these migrating populations] could be improved through the sharing of the knowledge of sustainable planning.”

To learn more about Amber Beard’s work in sustainable design, visit