Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Rx: Rebuilding Exchange

Ali Porter

Last weekend I visited a place that I had been meaning to visit for quite a while now. Rebuilding Exchange (Rx) is a huge retail warehouse located in Chicago by the river on the very edge of Bucktown. It is home to building materials and furniture salvaged from old properties before they hit the landfill. I found myself at Rx because I plan to build a shelving/storage unit to house my stereo, records, and assorted TV related boxes. The building is such a treasure trove that I kind of got carried away…

Rx was started in 2009 by the Delta Institute, an organization that promotes sustainability in the Great Lakes region as well as green technology, green jobs, and innovation. Since then Rx has prevented thousands of tons of building materials from reaching the landfill while at the same time offering over $2 million worth of quality reuse materials for sale to the public. According their website, Rx’s mission is:

to create a market for reclaimed building materials. We do this by diverting materials from landfills and making them accessible for reuse through our retail warehouse, by promoting sustainable deconstruction practices, by providing education and job training programs, and by creating innovative models for sustainable reuse.

They also offer classes on how to make a whole range of items, including awesome tables and beautiful wooden housewares. Rx has a great business model, and what they do is such a great way to repurpose and save some amazing pieces of history.

I visited on a Sunday morning, so there were very few people around. An old couple were perusing the used doors, and a family was checking out the old cast iron bath tubs. As they milled around, I headed straight to the section of the warehouse where they kept the wood. I hope to make something like a hybrid of different elements of this stuff, so I knew I needed 2-inch-thick planks and lots of them.
As I checked out what they had, one of the staff members stopped by to help out. He was an expert and could state the length of each plank without measuring it, and then with ninja-like skills (if ninjas were well-versed in carpentry…) he would produce his tape measure and prove himself right. Anyway, when I showed him the rough sketch of what I wanted to make, he made a series if lightening-quick calculations, and before I knew it, I had a massive pile of planks in a pile before me. I should mention the prices. They were CHEAP. For 60 feet worth of 2″x 9″ planks, I paid $27, and that included the numerous cuts the measuring ninja had to make with a circular saw…

After loading up the car with half a forest, I realized that the tools I had would (brace yourself for the world’s worst pun) just not cut it. (Ouch, sorry.) So the next stop was to Home Depot to buy a circular saw. The one I got had a laser. Yes, you read that correctly, a LASER. It was also in a damaged box, so they gave me a deal on it, too. All I have to do now is wait for the Chicago weather to ease up so I can partake in some outdoor craftiness and actually get the unit built. I might be waiting a while.
Rx: Rebuilding Exchange

Last weekend I visited a place that I had been meaning to visit for quite a while now. Rebuilding Exchange (Rx) is a huge retail warehouse located in Chicago by …

Arts, Entertainment & Media Management MAM Ali Porter,
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605