_____________________________________________________________________ Contact Us

Demonstrating the viability of sustainable concepts and practices in urban environments through research, education, and hands-on projects.

Skip to:

Birth of The Rebuilding Exchange

by Dave Hampton

The Rebuilding Exchange at 3335 W. 47th Street. Photo: Elise Zelechowski.

Please note: Urban Habitat Chicago DOES NOT operate the ReBuilding Exchange.
We generally DO NOT take donations of building materials, appliances, etc.
Go here to DONATE MATERIALS to or PURCHASE MATERIALS from The Rebuilding Exchange.

In contrast to the relatively short time resulting in a beautiful new arrival, the pregnancy period is much longer but essential in carefully shaping a strong and healthy individual that will eventually stand on its own.
This weekend, a group of volunteers helped the The Rebuilding Exchange take its first steps.

Been a long time comin’
Chicago’s green community gathers
A home for reclaimed building materials
Why use used building materials?
How you can help
I want to buy used building materials!
Learn more

Over 14,000 square feet of space available for used, discounted materials, components like windows and doors, light fixtures, and appliances.

Been a long time comin’

Though it’s not open for business just yet (grand opening slated for February 2009… stay tuned), The Rebuilding Exchange at 3335 W. 47th Street (map) will become the focal point of Chicagoland’s growing market for the storage and sale of building components and materials to the general public, ranging from lighting fixtures, appliances, and cabinet hardware to windows, doors, old-growth lumber, and siding. Materials are mostly collected through the process of deconstruction, the most economically viable alternative to demolition if a building cannot be otherwise saved.

Left: Janet Eckelbarger hugs Delta’s Institute’s Elise Zelechowski (in orange) to congratulate her on the payoff of long, hard work. Right: volunteers from the shelf-building crew.

Many players have contributed to this facility becoming a reality, foremost being deconstruction experts The Reuse People, OBI Deconstruction, and their main partner The Delta Institute.

Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC) is proud to have played a small but critical part in encouraging this facility through its support and promotion of deconstruction and its work to encourage The Reuse People to come to Chicagoland from way back in 2005.

Building a shelving rack for windows.

Chicago’s green community gathers

For those many months spent filing for grants, poring over real estate information, analyzing the market for reclaimed materials, or brainstorming on how to promote deconstruction and materials reuse, Chicagoland’s green community has increasingly rallied around a cause that makes sense from every possible environmental and economic standpoint.

This weekend for the first time, they set aside their cellphones, laptops, spreadsheets, and Powerpoints, crossed party lines, stood side-by-side, and rolled up their sleeves to turn a dream into a reality.

Volunteers help paint at the BMRC - green, of course!

I saw someone from the Department of Planning and Development putting the finishing touches on painting around a fire extinguisher on a cool mushroom-capital column. A former Department of the Environment employee joined an intern from the UIC marketing study to clean refrigerators. A farmer helped a neuroscience student move base cabinets. An architect (yours truly) and a soils scientist from Morton Arboretum joined a metal fabricator and a carpenter build storage racks for windows and doors out of some of the most solid lumber you’ll ever pick up!

One could feel the excitement that all of us, no matter what our day jobs were or when we first got involved in The Rebuilding Exchange, were each doing our part to serve a higher calling.

Stacks of dry, solid older-growth lumber await being taken home by you and put back to work in a construction project! More to come very soon.

A home for reclaimed building materials

Following proven examples of other reuse centers in California, Oregon, Maryland, and other states, The Rebuilding Exchange joins a growing network of places to find building components and materials at a reduced cost while stimulating the economy by putting people to work and increasing the value of our homes.

This is no drafty warehouse with stuff thrown helter-skelter in the corner to pick through - this is The Rebuilding Exchange, a class act!

Well-located within a short distance of the CTA Orange Line, I-55, and other major intersections, this facility will be the point of sale for great reclaimed building components and materials and will be fully staffed following a targeted February 2009 grand opening.
This is also not an architectural salvage place with unusual cachet items. Though some similar items such as fireplace mantels or unique lighting fixtures may be found here, the Chicago BMRC is primarily geared toward providing contractors, homeowners, and do-it-yourselfers with quality building components and materials for considerably less than new for renovations, remodels, or even new construction sold.

Used or reclaimed building materials have real value, especially more value than as a useless heap of garbage for the landfill.

Why use used building materials?

The short answer to the question: because it’s the right thing to do.

Some buildings simply cannot be adapted, reused, or otherwise saved through preservation efforts. In Chicagoland in one year alone, thousands of perfectly good homes are demolished and sent to the landfill, resulting in tremendous waste in excess of twenty tons per home - that’s the weight of 4 typical school buses!

The longer answer: because used or reclaimed building materials have real value.

As a society, we’ve already invested heavily in producing building materials. We extract them in raw form (such as cutting down a tree), form them into shapes we can use (such as a 2×4), move them (such as getting them to Home Depot), and put them in place (such as driving to Home Depot, buying the 2×4, and bringing it to the jobsite, and using it in the building).
Now we’re going to knock the building down and take that 2×4 all the way to the landfill in a big heap of trash?
This might be legal, but it’s criminally stupid.
What a waste!

The Rebuilding Exchange is now part of the solution.

(Note: Learn more about the embodied energy in our older buildings.)

Windows of all sizes reclaimed from deconstructed homes.

How you can help

Remember when your President (not THAT President… the guy from Texas) told you to go out and buy, buy, buy to keep our economy going?
We’re going to ask that you do the same, with a twist: buy from The Rebuilding Exchange. Buy used.

Search your soul, look twice at your architect’s drawings, and look once again in your pockets.
Do you really need new lumber for that kitchen expansion? How about slightly used but older-growth joists instead?
You want the most energy-efficient building possible, we know that… maybe you can justify better insulation or windows by using used nice, used solid-oak doors instead of new ones.

This stuff would end up in the landfill if a lot of people hadn’t made the commitment and taken the effort to bring it to you at a lower cost than new components and materials.
When you make the choice to buy used and reclaimed stuff from The Rebuilding Exchange, you support the recovery of things we’ve already invested a lot of time and energy to make… and you’ll save money.

Make the right decision, buy used, help promote deconstruction as an alternative to demolition, help promote building materials reuse, and you’ll be helping The Rebuilding Exchange grow big and strong!

I want to buy used building materials!

Anyone interested in purchasing materials before the facility opens should make an appointment with Elise Zelechowski of Delta Institute at (312)554-0900 x.20, (773) 844-5945 mobile, email: EZelechowski@delta-institute.org

Do you sink we’re finished? Not by a long shot. There’s more…

Learn more

The Rebuilding Exchange blog
Urban Habitat Chicago’s deconstruction advocacy
What’s Your Building’s Eco-Value?, Mike Jackson, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency


aron packer on December 3, 2008

Hi all… congrats…. looks great. Let me know if i can help somehow? Taking donations? Perhaps a benefit at some point? Best, Aron

Dave Hampton on December 3, 2008


Absolutely! I’m sure they’d love that. Just get in contact with Elise Zelechowski at Delta Institute (http://delta-institute.org/), who are in charge of the BMRC.

cathleen kilian on December 3, 2008

Elise ! I am so thrilled about your project !!! Congratulations ! I hope to see it when I am in Chicago in February !

what a brilliant concept - you are starting a trend toward buying USED EVERYTHING !

Cathleen in Paris ( hoping soon to live in Chicago !)

Patti Costello on December 3, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS Elise and company! What a wonderful project to keep this stuff out of the solid waste stream and clogging up our landfills. Taking this concept national would be awesome.

Best wishes for continued success! Patti

mickie haag on December 3, 2008

Congradulations on the birth of a really big kid. And you never even mentioned it at the dinner. I am sharing this info with a friend who does a lot of rehabing. BEST OF LUCK

Cristin Carole on December 6, 2008

I can hardly wait to build my new spring chicken house from deconstructed materials! Any roll down hurricane shutters in the facility?

Dave Hampton on December 11, 2008

Anyone interested in purchasing materials before the mid-February 2009 opening date should make an appointment with Elise Zelechowski of Delta Institute at (312)554-0900 x.20, (773) 844-5945 mobile, email: EZelechowski@delta-institute.org

Comments for this entry are closed.

Top of Page