Happy Earth Day: Building Green with the Rebuilding Exchange

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)


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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