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.