Finalist 2021

Brutalis Collection by Acustico Lighting

Acustico Lighting / Envirorubber Solutions / Tyre Stewardship Australia

The new acoustic ‘Brutalis Collection’ is characterised by a monolithic appearance of formed concrete with feminine curves and fine detailing.

Akin to the brutalist era, the new ‘Brutalis Collection’ by Acustico Lighting is characterised by a monolithic appearance of formed concrete with a rigid, geometric style and scale, with a distinct lack of ornamentation. The collection features feminine curves and fine detailing.

With dual utility and bold aesthetics, this sophisticated and functional linear lighting collection promises more than meets the eye. The Acustico Lighting 'Brutalis Collection' is the first of its kind, test results reveal it reduces reverberation significantly. It promises an improved visual, lighting and acoustic experience to any space.

Design Brief

Acustico Lightings’ inaugural and Good Design Award-winning, Musica Collection was enjoying month-on-month growth when Covid-19 hit Australian shores and business took a nose-dive. The designer used the extra time to research the nature of design in historical periods of austerity. She was inspired by the modernist movement and brutalist architecture that followed the World War II era.

The purpose statement of Acustico Lighting is ‘to create visually beautiful and acoustically calm spaces’. As a sensory person, the head designer set about designing a pared-back linear light with high functionality to be used in either a residential or commercial environment. Samantha likes to work with materials that have never before been used in lighting.

While it is designed to appear as black, formed concrete with a white speckled terrazzo fleck, the twist is, it’s actually made from crumbed recycled car tyres.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The Brutalis Collection was made possible via a Creative Victoria ‘2021 Sustaining Creative Workers Grant’ which led to collaborations with local creative workers and manufacturers during the product development process.

Prior to the process commencing, advice was sought from RMIT Associate Professor of Materials, Science and Engineering and the Tyre Stewardship Australia Organisation to determine whether the hypothesis was feasible.

Upon satisfying concerns about binders, fire resistance etc. the process of working out the best way to bind and mould the granulated recycled car tyre rubber began. Acustico Lighting collaborated with Envirorubber Solutions Pty Ltd who currently create commercial ramps and speed humps using granulated rubber with a binder.

It took a couple of iterations to perfect a sample that could then be scientifically tested for its acoustic properties in an Autoneum Alpha Cabin.

Once satisfied that the acoustic properties were of high enough standard to create a commercially viable product a number of further iterations were initiated.

Added to the rubber/binder combination were concrete chips to create the look of terrazzo concrete. A number of moulds were designed, the rubber proved a difficult and uncompromising partner. The design was changed a number of times to suit the malleability and reduce the cost per unit.

Concealed recycled aluminium forms the internal base for the LED strip lighting to be housed and included is an added up-light feature to bathe the ceiling in soft light. The LED is available in a range of different wattages and lumen counts. Minimal suspension wires suspend it from the ceiling and a cloth-covered flex with minimal ceiling plate provide high-end finishing details to the light. It comes with a European remote driver.

Most components (apart from the lighting hardware) are manufactured in Melbourne and assembled at Studio Acustico, the headquarters of Acustico Lighting.

Design Excellence

Human-centred design is the foundation for the Acustico Lighting range of products.

The development of the Acustico Lighting business was in direct response to Founder and Interior Designer, Samantha McKenzie, seeking to solve a problem for a client's noisy boardroom.

As a sensory soul herself, Director and Interior Designer, Samantha McKenzie designs products to help create a sense of calm in spaces.

All materials used in her products are considered for their acoustic qualities, safety, novel use and environmental support.

In this instance, the re-use of disused car tyres helps divert tyres from landfill (albeit in small quantities in proportion to the enormous problem of discarded car tyres in our world).

This is the first time this material has been used in a lighting product anywhere in the world and although it presented a few challenges along the way we’re thrilled with the aesthetic and functional outcome.

We are particularly happy that our hypothesis has been supported which was: ‘the use of Granulated Recycled Car Tyres would have good reverberation reduction properties (an NRC over 1 in some frequencies).’ It has an overall NRC value of .64 in the mid-high frequency range. This value ranks the acoustic absorption of the product equal to or better than many products in the global acoustic lighting market.

Our lights are sustainably boxed and easy to install by a qualified electrician which makes for a no-fuss user experience.

The Brutalis Collection was launched at NGV Melbourne Design Week as part of ‘Local Colour’ with Scanlan & Makers on 31 March 2021.

Design Innovation

Tyre Stewardship Australia was formed to implement the national Tyre Product Stewardship Scheme to promote the development of viable markets for end-of-life tyres. There are multiple benefits of transforming a waste product into a useful commodity, creating new industries and employment opportunities while also reducing the environmental harm caused by the illegal dumping of tyres.

Whist this project was too small to interest the organisation to assist in any great capacity, they were very happy to assist with information sharing about the properties of the granulated rubber. They also showed great excitement to see the rubber being used in an indoor application for something other than asphalt, speed humps and ramps.

Research was also done through Everson Kandare, RMIT Associate Professor of Materials, Science and Engineering. Everson was useful in predicting the granulated rubber would be an appropriate and safe material to be used to create a sound-absorbent light.

In my own personal research, and to the knowledge of these industry experts, recycled granulated car tyre rubber has never been used to create a lighting product anywhere in the world. This was very exciting information to obtain before embarking on the design experience!

Independent testing of the acoustic properties of the material confirms that this is an effective sound-absorbent lighting product. It is our belief that is also a more attractive alternative than other competing acoustic lighting products.

Responses from architects and designers to the Acustico Lighting Brutalis Collection reinforce the innovative appeal of the collection.

Design Impact

Recent trends to create more collaborative workplace, education and hospitality spaces have led to increased reporting by users that noise is hindering productivity and wellbeing. ‘The Lombard Effect’ is a phenomenon whereby speakers increase their vocal production in noisy environments.

According to a City of Melbourne report in 2016, elevated noise has health consequences including, hearing impairment, hypertension, heart disease, annoyance and sleep disturbance.

A 2016 Oxford Economics survey of 1200 executives found the "ability to focus and work without interruption" was the most important attribute of their workplace.
Productivity is a problem for businesses across the globe, spanning education, healthcare, and hospitality industries.

Brutalis makes sense to a specifying Designer as it can increase productivity in collaborative spaces by helping reduce noise. It improves work, school and home environment with enhanced lighting and aesthetics which aids employers with recruitment and staff retention. It is a welcome alternative to commonly used aluminum strip lighting.

The Brutalis Collection offers a decorative element whilst functioning as a tool for sound management. Reporting shows that Acustico Lighting’s Brutalis Collection boasts an NRC (noise-reduction co-efficient) Value of .64 in the mid-high frequency noise range. This results in more appealing, calmer and healthier environments.

Our business is also proud to support jobs for Australian designers and manufacturers.

Acustico Lighting insists on using environmentally conscious materials. It puts the planet first by selecting sustainable product materials for their noise absorbency, and low production emissions.

Using LED ensures longevity and minimisation of energy consumption. The Brutalis Collection is made in small production runs and by working with moulds minimises waste almost entirely.

The collection was incredibly well-received at a Melbourne Design Week function where it was launched in March. The function was held in a warehouse in Abbotsford which was the perfect setting to display this design.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Protecting the environment is a priority for Acustico Lighting and this involves sourcing every environmentally friendly component currently available. The largest components are the recycled car tyre rubber and structure which are both reusable.

Features include:
Disused car tyres are crumbed at a Melbourne factory and sent to Envirorubber Solutions Pty Ltd, our collaborating partner in the manufacturing process;

  • It is bound with a PU binder and disused flecks of concrete are added;
  • The internal aluminium skeleton is made from recycled aluminium;
  • The steel suspension cables are recyclable;
  • The acrylic diffuser can be recycled;
  • The LED used ensures maximum energy efficiency with 50,000 hours of usage (it cannot be recycled);
  • The Tridonic driver and electrical flex cannot be recycled;
  • 90% of the parts are manufactured locally and assembled at Studio Acustico.

Studio Acustico provides an END-OF-LIFE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM which states:
We ask that products are returned to Acustico Lighting. We have agreements in place with our suppliers who commit to upcycling approximately 80% of the materials.

These agreements are discussed in our initial meetings with suppliers to determine whether by creating a product we are effectively contributing to a landfill problem that does not fit with our company values.

One of Acustico Lighting's 5 brand pillars states – ‘we use environmentally conscious material choices and manufacturing methods to create products that do not further harm our planet.’

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