Bordie Earth Sheltered Home Architectural Drawings and Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
John and Camilla Bordie commissioned the architectural firm Coffee and Crier in 1975 to design an earth-sheltered home for their family in northern Travis County, Texas. John, a University of Texas linguistics professor, and Camilla, a parliamentarian of the Texas Senate, wanted an energy efficient home for themselves and their two children on a site that seemed to lend itself to earth-shelter design. The inspiration for the house came from three different sources: a house with a central atrium they had lived in while overseas; the earth covered lodges of the Mandan in South Dakota which John had excavated on a Smithsonian archeological dig; and a tornado which ripped out the center of a long structure of the property shortly before beginning construction. The house was on a slight slope so the footings had to be inset into the slope about one foot on the south side and three feet on the north side. When a tornado ripped out the center of the long barn, the architect and the Bordies agreed to drop the footings an additional six feet, later slightly extended by two more feet. The house structure and design were such that the building could have been surface built or mostly subterranean with only minor service modifications either way. The Bordies found that the house was quite comfortable. It served as a proving ground for the Texas insurance commission which established risk possibilities for house insurance purposes, and was carefully monitored by the Electricity board for electrical usage. Their insurance premiums were about 50% of those for similar square footage houses above ground; the electricity usage was about 35% that of standard houses; only the property tax stayed on par with that of similar sized houses. The Bordies moved when the entire area changed to commercial and the Wells Branch Parkway was built to the east and traffic became difficult.
The collection contains the 1975 Coffee & Crier schematic design and working drawings, specifications (attached to the drawings) and the contract for the Bordie home. Also included are several newspaper and magazine articles and publications about underground homes (earth sheltered design) that feature the Bordie home dating from 1975 through 1985.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Bordie Earth Sheltered Home Architectural Drawings and Papers (AR.2017.014). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2016/062
Donation Date: 2017
Architectural drawings cataloged by Toni Thomasson in 2017. Records arranged and finding aid encoded in 2017 by Molly Hults.
Detailed Description of the Collection