Lou Dickson, executive director of the Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse, 1818 Dempster St., and Dave Bennik, owner of RE-USE Consulting, spoke on Feb. 15, to introduce the Warehouse to local contractors, realtors, architects and the community. Photo by Mary Mumbrue

The Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse is providing a place for contractors, rehabbers, building owners and residents to donate used building materials rather than sending those materials to a landfill, simultaneously helping both the local and global communities. By donating used construction materials, contractors will save money on dumpster costs, which have risen significantly in recent years. Contractors, their clients and other donors can take a tax deduction for the value of the donated materials. And these donated building materials can then be purchased for reuse at reduced costs by local building owners, residents, contractors, developers and architects.

Lou Dickson, founder and executive director of the ERW, has been a general contractor in Evanston for more than 20 years. The Warehouse has been a longtime vision of hers, and she is acting on that vision. She explains that “with building material construction and demolition accounting for 40 percent of the material going into landfills, it is essential to reuse as many building materials as we can. We want to change people’s perception of what’s an asset and what’s garbage.”

Rebuilding exchanges and warehouses are being established in many communities. Many are modeled on The Rebuilding Center in Portland, Ore., (www.rebuildingcenter.org), which has been in operation for 13 years. Portland does what the Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse is setting up to do: It uses the revenue from donated building material sales to fund projects such as workforce training and community education.

DeconstructionAside from individual donations, one of the ways the ERW will obtain salvaged building materials for reuse is from local homes being “deconstructed” as part of the City of Evanston’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. It is the City’s intention that local contractors and laborers will be trained in deconstruction techniques and that the appropriate resulting materials can be donated to the Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse. Dennis Marino of the City’s Planning Department says this is a win/win situation for the City. The City hopes this particular effort will encourage other developers and contractors working in Evanston to become involved in deconstruction.

“Deconstruction” is an alternative to demolition. It is a process that has become more common because of environmental concerns about the amount of construction waste that is ending up in landfills. Deconstruction involves carefully taking apart buildings, component by component. The first part, called “soft-stripping,” includes removing appliances, windows, doors and other finishing materials. Then the structural members are removed. Deconstruction has been referred to as “construction in reverse.”

Rebuilding warehouses and exchanges are often not-for-profit organizations, so that the donors (contractors or their clients) can qualify for tax deductions.

The Evanston Community Foundation has provided the ERW with a “root2fruit” grant ($10,000 per year for up to three years.) The “root2fruit” grants are intended for small local organizations so they can “build their capacity to thrive and succeed.” As part of the grant, the ECF provides an organization with access to mentors, help with board development, resource development and marketing.

The Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse is centrally located at 1818 Dempster St. in the rear of the Heartwood Center building, just east of the Dodge and Dempster intersection. ERW is currently open for deliveries by appointment and hopes to open its doors for resale business on March 1. To help facilitate that, ERW hosted a breakfast sponsored by Calvert Investments on Feb. 15 for contractors, architects and others who can help build the inventory. Ms. Dickson says the concern now is making sure enough materials have been donated before the ERW opens for business, so that shoppers have plenty to choose from. “We feel very strongly about our credibility in the community. While we want to begin accepting donations and selling materials, we hope people will understand that we are still building an inventory,” she says.

More information is available at evanstonrebuildingwarehouse.org.

Building Material Resale and Deconstruction Websites

A number of YouTube videos now describe and illustrate the deconstruction process. Some, such as this one, use time-lapse photography.


“”Reuse It: the Movie”” on the “”Bring”” website (building material reuse in Oregon) http://www.bringrecycling.org/home

The Building Materials Reuse Association (a national deconstruction organization) http://www.bmra.org/

The Deconstruction Institute (lists resources for deconstruction) http://www.deconstructioninstitute.com/

Ellen Galland

Ellen Galland has had an architectural practice in Evanston since 1983. For more than 20 years, she has written articles for the RoundTable, including the column “Ask An Architect" and "The Green Column"...