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Happy Earth Day: Building Green with the Rebuilding Exchange

By Jenna Rae on April 22, 2013


With Earth Day today, what better to write about than the new recipient of our Community Giving Program? For the next six months we will contribute half of tour guide gratuities to the Rebuilding Exchange. This institution, dedicated to reuse and green architecture, is one of our favorites in Chicago

Chicago Detours Giving Program

Starting in December we at Chicago Detours started collecting half of our tour gratuities to give to Archeworks, a postgraduate design school in Chicago devoted to creating more healthy, equitable, and environmentally sustainable communities. Archeworks was the first in this Chicago Detours Community Giving Program. We were very please to surpass our goal of raising $1,200 to support their “Elemental Mud Workshop” series. Tour guests gave more than $1,500 to Archeworks.

Rebuilding Exchange

We’ve had our eyes on Rebuilding Exchange since we first came up with the idea for this Giving Program. We want to contribute to non-profits that work along similar missions as Chicago Detours and they’re just that. A non-profit social enterprise dedicated to reuse and green architecture. Perfect for us!

Rebuilding Exchange helps Chicago re-imagine what we can do with building material waste.rebuilding exchange chicago architecture green architecture Located on the east edge of Bucktown, the Rebuilding Exchange creates a market for reclaimed building materials. Some of the buildings that would see a wrecking ball instead see the faces of devoted Rebuilding Exchange employees. Imagine them running in with hammers waving, saving materials left and right like firemen saving kittens?

Ok, maybe it isn’t quite like that. But they do rescue wood, tiles, furniture, windows, and doors from ending up in landfills. The Rebuilding Exchange is a green business, and is part of the Delta Institute, which is “blazing a trail to the green economy.” They help spread the word about “deconstruction” – the process of de-constructing a building and saving its materials for reuse.

Salvage and Green Architecture

The salvaged materials, from marble slabs to antique wood beams, are for sale in their retail warehouse. Personally, I’ve always loved wandering around architectural salvage stores. Thinking about the stories behind glass-paned doors with signs from businesses long-gone or all the hands that have touched drawer handles now divorced from their drawers. Architectural salvage warehouses are like a safer way of exploring abandoned buildings, which of course I would never taken part in (wink, wink).

Rebuilding Exchange also helps you figure out what to do with all their amazing building materials. You can take workshops on woodworking and home-improvement. For example, one upcoming event is called “Fix Up the Furniture-Basic Furniture Repair Class.” For $10 you can learn how to do quick fixes with your furniture that don’t involve sugar packets! For one-day Make It/Take It classes you make a wood bench, rustic mirror or garden planter, and you get to take it home with you.

Classroom inside the warehouse

Could the Rebuilding Exchange be any more awesome? They only started in 2009, and they also have created a furniture line called RX Made. Using reclaimed materials, they build tables and benches, and even other household items like clocks, cheese boards, and a bottle opener.

Rebuilding into the Future

green architecture rebuilding exchange
RX Made section of the warehouse

The Rebuilding Exchange wants to improve their workshop facilities, which provide public education with the workshops, and also job training to people with barriers to employment. We want to raise $1,200 from our Community Giving Program for their workshop. To support the Rebuilding Exchange you can join us on our regularly scheduled walking tours, like the “Inside the Loop Interior Architectural Tour” or the “Good Times Historic Bar Tour.” Remember, we like to say that we bring people to explore stories and places locals don’t even know, so if you are a Chicagoan you will be surprised at how much you’ll learn on our architectural and historical tours of Chicago.

 -Amanda Scotese, Executive Director (with help of Jenna Staff, Chicago Detours Editorial Intern)


Chicago Detours offers guided walking and bus tours of architecture, history and culture to public and private groups. We are a passionate team of educators, historians, artists and storytellers, and are proud to be one of very few tour companies in Chicago that is rated five stars on both Google and TripAdvisor.


Call: 312.350.1131
E-Mail: [email protected]