Teslas, tire walls and grassy roofs: New Brunswickers greeted with cleaner-energy solutions during 2019 Eco Buildings Tour

Dozens of locations across the province were open for the public to explore during the Conservation Council event



With dozens of locations open to the public, curious New Brunswickers who participated in the annual Eco Buildings Tour Saturday saw a snapshot of what the future will hold.

Not only could they see houses across the province with green-energy solutions but homes that could make anyone turn green with envy.

“It’s a subterranean home that’s built with rammed-earth design,” said Jay Hannigan of his house, the Terra Berma Project. “Emphasis is on a passive solar approach, which means our home is buried in the ground and we rely on the sun to heat it.”

Walking through the building, located on the Kingston Peninsula near Grand Bay-Westfield, tour goers could see how the Hannigans gather rainwater and used reclaimed tires in the house’s construction.

Grass sod on the roof acts as an insulator for the ceilings, while clay floors and other natural or repurposed materials were used in the interior.

The home is like their third child, Hannigan said, requiring constant care. The aim is to be net-zero, meaning the building produces as much energy as it consumes.

“People have many, many different questions about the different systems the house encompasses so sometimes it’s difficult to get to them all,” he said.

Smooth driving for New Brunswick EV owners

At a stop outside Hampton High School, people were treated to a few demonstrations.

Six solar panels were installed on the building by the company NexGen Energy. The panels, part of a pilot project by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, help power the school.

Across the parking lot were a row of electric cars with their drivers ready to answer questions about the emerging technology.

Dusty Phillips, who drives a 2017 Tesla Model X, said most people asked about the range of the vehicles, charging times and where the battery was located.

While challenges persist when it comes to long-distance trips, the self-described technologist has little trouble driving around New Brunswick.

“Just the potholes,” Phillips said.

‘This was incredible’

In Quispamsis, tour goers saw another house with a green roof.

Chris and Ursina Meier have built and live in what’s described as a timber frame, straw-wall home with a curved sod roof. It’s designed with energy-efficient technologies in mind.

Huge solar panels sit on top of the garage, heating the family’s hot water. Much of the building is embedded in the rock around it, which Chris says helps prevent energy loss.

The straw is densely packed, making it incredibly heat resistant, and has sand and clay surrounding it.

“In tests, it takes hours for it to actually ignite,” Ursina said.

“I really tried using less-engineered materials,” said Chris, an accomplished Red Seal carpenter. “A lot of times engineered materials lead to health effects for your family from outgassing.”

Outside the home stood Michele Banks and her son Alexander Banks.

The two visited several destinations in the Eco Buildings Tour, hoping to see inspiring ways people use renewable energy and incorporate surrounding environments into their buildings and technologies.

“This was incredible,” Michele said about the Meiers’ home, “because he designed it all by himself.”

“I really like seeing the buildings people made to go off the grid and save energy, that kind of thing,” Alexander said.

“But also to see their mindset and seeing how they went about doing it. I think that’s really neat.”

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