Explore: Club Peloton’s first climate change and challenge event
The rolling hills and spectacular scenery that surround the Peebles Hydro Hotel & Spa offer a tantalising taste of what awaits the 20 attendees of the inaugural Explore event. Nestled amongst the rolling Border hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the pretty town of Peebles straddles the glorious River Tweed, renowned for its salmon fishing. It is also a mecca for cyclists: this area of the Borders offers everything from long flat stretches of an old railway line to steep, fast mountain bike trails, with Glentress Forest – home to some of the best mountain bike trails in Britain – as well as spectacular road routes that enable further exploration of the area, all right on the doorstep.
But we’re not just here to ride bikes. To mark the UK hosting COP26, Explore is a new Club Peloton challenge event bringing together the real estate industry to talk climate, ride bikes and discover Scotland.
After settling in, the group convenes to meet and eat. We are steered by Alastair Mant, Director of Business Transformation at the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC). He explains that, over the next three days, our discussions will cover the scale of the risks and opportunities from climate change, how to create net zero carbon buildings and adapt them to the growing physical risks, the future of urban mobility, and how to stay personally resilient in the face of extreme challenge.
The assembled riders break into smaller groups to discuss their hopes and fears about the scale of the challenge ahead: According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), to avoid catastrophic climate change of above 1.5°C we must reduce global carbon emissions by 7% year on year until 2030. To understand the scale of this task it is worth noting that the COVID-induced shut down of the global economy led to an approximate 6.5% reduction in annual emissions. But with civil society involvement and protest movements, carbon capture technologies, businesses’ commitment to net zero, and the movement of the finance market to embrace ESG and impact funds, perhaps there is room for hope.
The first full day of Explore sees everyone heading out together on a road ride to further cement the group. A ferocious headwind towards Talla Reservoir has the peloton sticking together in tight formation before we split into smaller groups for the climb up and around the reservoir into the next valley. We regroup before the second, more relaxed climb of the day, enjoying a sweeping descent that hugs the northern edge of the Megget Reservoir, before heading back to Peebles via the cycle path.
In the afternoon, half of the group heads to Glentress on mountain or gravel bikes to try out some of the mountain bike trails, while the road riders head out for another 70k. The remainder head to the Hydro’s spa for some well-earned R&R.
That evening we head to Coltman’s Kitchen & Restaurant in Peebles. Over an excellent dinner, Alastair introduces the theme of the evening’s discussion – what constitutes a net carbon building – before handing over to James Morgan from Heyne Tillett Steel to discuss how to make changes to the structure of buildings to reduce carbon. This sparks further discussion: whether we should stop building altogether, using alternative materials, and whether materials can be reused. Modern methods of construction and new materials, institutional issues and systemic challenges are also discussed, as well as build to rent and buildings as material banks.
In the morning, the group splits into two again, with half riding or hiring mountain bikes to try some of Glentress’ more challenging routes, and the other half heading out on a road ride.
In the afternoon, we transfer to Edinburgh for a bike tour of sustainable and/or low carbon buildings, led by HTA Design’s Richard Foxley. Highlights include the Royal Commonwealth Pool, the first retrofit building in Edinburgh, plans for the public realm – which include introducing trams to force traffic out of the city centre – and the colony houses, homes for artisans and skilled working-class families built as double flats to allow both properties to have a front garden.
At the evening dinner at Malmaison, we are joined by round-the-world cyclist and world record holder, Mark Beaumont, who talks about his expeditionary adventures, his self-imposed lockdown challenges and his involvement in numerous climate and environmental projects, which include research and investment into clean tech and renewables.
Mark shared a number of insights on how to stay resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and how to ensure targets are not limiting. His thoughts are perhaps helpful in relation to the property industry’s current need for carbon targets: historical achievement should not be the basis of targets, but rather use current data that shows what is possible now, and then break down the targets into components that individuals can achieve.
For the third and final day of Explore, the group heads out for all day rides. The mountain bikers are taken on a tour of the hills, forests and single tracks between Peebles and Selkirk, while the road riders head out for 150km of stunning scenery.
The evening’s dinner at Peebles Hydro features some awards for the past three days, and a talk by Mike Axon of Explore co-sponsor Vectos, who talks about designing for active travel. Vision and validate – designing for what you want to see – is Mike’s clear message, as is the reallocation of road space to public realm. The discussion is lively and heated, with people contributing various viewpoints on how we can improve local interaction and reduce carbon. Alex Egan from Yellow Sub Geo also talks about the importance of global resource water management, providing further food for thought to round off a very thought-provoking few days.
With so many topics discussed under the umbrella of climate change over the past few days, and targets looming for the property industry, we are all responsible for what happens next. We’ll keep you posted.
Thanks to Alastair Mant for his input into this article. Follow him on Twitter here.