John Edel discusses how he was able to create an innovative space to house a vibrant community of small food businesses.

John Edel is both an eco and social entrepreneur. His most recent endeavor, The Plant, is a project combining adaptive industrial reuse, waste recovery, smart building technologies, and aquaponics to create an innovative space to house a vibrant community of small food businesses. Located in a former meatpacking facility in Chicago’s historic Stockyards, The Plant is home to 24 businesses whose inputs and outputs are woven together as a living laboratory for the circular economy. John also is the owner and developer of the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, an affordable, energy-efficient space for small and emerging manufacturers, product assemblers, and other businesses committed to sustainability. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100% occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic. The renovation was assisted by a core group of volunteers and by bartering with suppliers, tenants and scrappers. The building’s green roof is a photo of Edel’s daughter Zoe rendered in 9,600 sedum plants, each of which is a pixel in her image. In previous careers, Edel taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games, and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation with new uses to reinvigorate Chicago’s lost industrial base.

About the speaker

John Edel is both an eco and social entrepreneur. His most recent endeavor, The Plant, is a project combining adaptive industrial reuse, waste recovery, smart building technologies, and aquaponics to create an innovative space to house a vibrant community of small food businesses. Located in a former meatpacking facility in Chicago’s historic Stockyards, The Plant is home to 24 businesses whose inputs and outputs are woven together as a living laboratory for the circular economy.

John also is the owner and developer of the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, an affordable, energy-efficient space for small and emerging manufacturers, product assemblers, and other businesses committed to sustainability. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100% occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic. The renovation was assisted by a core group of volunteers and by bartering with suppliers, tenants and scrappers. The building’s green roof is a photo of Edel’s daughter Zoe rendered in 9,600 sedum plants, each of which is a pixel in her image.

In previous careers, Edel taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games, and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation with new uses to reinvigorate Chicago’s lost industrial base.

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