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Since the beginning of time, man has relied on the natural light of the sun as its main illumination source.  As a light source, the sun produces the right quality and spectrum of light that the human eye desires and the human brain requires for optimum performance during the day. It is a free source of light, many thousand times greater in intensity than is needed for different building uses.

But it is also a varying source of light that changes based on the date, time of the day and climatic conditions. These factors make the daylighting solution much greater than any one product.

Architectural theory and process typically are passed down over generations, and changes in the use of building materials such as concrete and steel have seen a slow evolution – from concrete’s use by the ancient Romans to the dominance of steel during the Industrial Revolution. Likewise, wood has seen its own progression in construction, and history has demonstrated its inherent strength in non-residential structures.

The volatility of today’s real estate market has many commercial property owners searching for new revenue streams. While improvements and renovations can increase the overall value of a property, the upfront costs of labor and materials as well as the potential revenue that could be lost if tenants are forced to vacate during construction are often too large of a financial risk for most owners.

However, commercial property owners have a new opportunity to increase the value of their properties without disrupting the income generated by their tenants.

Slowly, the construction industry is emerging from this stagnant economy. According to a recent Commerce Department report, home construction rose 15 percent in September 2012. Additionally, apartment buildings increased 25.1 percent and applications for building permits rose almost 12 percent. While this is encouraging news, it is too early to determine if the economy is in a true recovery or experiencing a short-term peak headed for a double-dip recession.

As the world’s developing nations continue to upgrade their standards of living, fresh opportunities are emerging for North American companies engaged in construction and power infrastructure services. These opportunities might be fostered by local governments eager to harness North American expertise, or might be facilitated via government agencies.

In either case, companies with contacts in foreign nations must deploy the latest technological solutions while still remaining mindful of worker safety, environmental issues and positive relations with the local community, including the hiring and training of as many local workers as possible. Below I review some of these considerations in greater detail.

While statistics speak volumes, the reality regarding worker/jobsite safety is that it is not a new concept but instead a topic that has been discussed, rehashed, ignored and revisited. As of late, the topic has risen from the ashes, much like the mythical Phoenix, to live again in our industry, which by its own account is one of the most hazardous ways in which to make a living.

Most would quickly recognize what have become two of the most iconic photographs – decades old images that artfully display an all too precarious truth, an array of non-fall protected construction workers building what could arguably be considered two of the most recognizable architectural landmarks in the United States, the Empire State Building and the George Washington Bridge.

Winning a prestigious contract, developing a faster process to complete a critical task, or inventing an attachment for a machine that dramatically increases productivity are the home runs of the construction world. These game-changing events are the result of creativity, effort and investment.

No matter how long you have been in the construction business, you know you don’t win every contract you compete for, and not every job earns the margin estimated. Other business challenges include faster processes being quickly adopted by your competition, and inventions not working work as envisioned. How will your company sustain its growth and profitability in the post-recession economy? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?

Companies thrive on innovation. Whether it's in the form of new products or techniques or improvements to existing products or techniques, many companies rely on intellectual property (IP) rights to protect their innovations. There are many forms of IP, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade dress and trade secrets. Of these, patent rights have proven themselves to be particularly valuable to innovative companies.

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