Riel Bessai is a PhD candidate in the Design for Sustainability research group at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, working on regenerative design with bio-based materials.
Regenerative design moves one step beyond sustainability, considering design as a way to not only minimize negative impacts of human activities but to actively restore and regenerate ecological and social systems. Bio-based materials are derived from atmospheric CO2 by virtue of their biological photosynthetic feedstocks. This means that they act to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store this carbon content in materials and products - effectively creating an artificial carbon sink in our things. This could play a major role in combatting CO2 emissions and climate change.
But questions arise in employing technological solutions to technologically-produced crises. How can we use bio-based materials to sequester carbon, while ensuring that they also produce positive effects on social and ecological systems. How can we design within these systems knowing that they are complex, emergent, and unpredictable. How can we consider designing on spatio-temporal scales that extend much beyond the designer's life, as is required in sequestering carbon?
After completing his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering at McGill University in Canada, Riel worked for two years in a multinational engineering company as an acoustic, noise, and vibration engineer. Seeking more creative and meaningful work, he came to TU Delft to study Integrated Product Design, with a focus on climate change mitigation. He graduated Cum Laude with his Unito project on carbon-negative bioplastics in product design, which was also awarded best graduation for IDE. Following a successful showcase of this project at Dutch Design Week, Riel is now continuing this research through a PhD in the SDE department of TU Delft IDE.