Hey, Doc! Can I Get a Building RX?

Just two years after its Febuary 2009 launch, Chicago’s Rebuilding Exchange (@RXChicago) is getting ready to move their entire operation to a new home that totals twice the size of their current space and located closer to the heart of the city. The group, which is a project of the Delta Institute, works to divert building materials from the waste stream by promoting sustainable methods of deconstruction and making used material available for a low cost. It is not your typical architectural salvage source filled with over-priced antiques and rare finds; instead, the Rebuilding Exchange will take in 80 to 90 percent of a disassembled home, everything but the drywall and foundation, and markets to first-time homeowners, do-it yourselfers, designers, and artists alike.

RXExchange2 I took a tour of the organization’s current location in November, where Rebuilding Exchange executive director Elise Zelechowski brought up two startling statistics: 1) 40 percent of landfill waste comes from building materials, and 2) that only 6 percent of LEED projects take advantage of re-use MR credits. While the Rebuilding Exchange only takes in materials from residential deconstruction, it made think: How incredible would it be to see a program like this at scale within the commercial sector? And the success numbers of this project are there too—in just two years it has diverted over 2,000 tons of building materials from landfills, created job training programs, and offered community education and building workshops.

Aside from the fact that this is not only an inspirational and transferable project, one of my favorite parts of visiting their facility was seeing some of the products that have been created using RX materials. Picture frames, farm tables, benches, and art objects were on display to demonstrate just how limitless the possibilities of designing with reclaimed materials can be. If you want to see some fun projects, both large and small, that make use of materials from the ReBuilding Exchange, visit its Web site (http://www.rebuildingexchange.org/) and blog (http://rebuildingexchange.blogspot.com/). These projects are definitely worth checking out!

–Brittany Hahn

Contract magazine is proud to announce a blog installation from one of three guest design student bloggers. Lisa Backus, Brittany Hahn, and La Keisha Leek regularly will be writing and sharing their design experiences at TalkContract for the next year. Check back often to see what's the buzz among the next generation of designers, and be sure to share with them your feedback and design advice by commenting below.

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