The construction industry faces a variety of crises, not the least of which is the economic downturn. But the business also faces a variety of high-profile problems including injuries and deaths on the job, labor issues, cost over-runs, natural disasters and structural collapse, among others.

According to preliminary figures from the Associated General Contractors of America, there were 721 deaths in 2011, down significantly from 2006 (1,239). This could be tied to a weakened economy, but nonetheless good news.

The hum of heavy equipment, service vehicles and back-up generators is the sound of a thriving construction business. But with diesel prices hovering between $4 and $5 per gallon, fuel costs have a significant effect on profitability. It’s estimated that fuel accounts for 40 to 50 percent of an asset’s operating costs. In addition, contractors must be concerned about fuel-related issues including carbon emissions, penalties for excessive idling and the environmental certifications required for bid eligibility.

Since 2001, states around the country have been implementing regulatory energy codes that require buildings to be built airtight. More recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been a leading agency in requiring that all new and remodeled, conditioned buildings not only be built with a required air tightness, but be field-tested to ensure that a sufficient air tightness was achieved. It has been shown that reducing air leakage from a building can result in up to 35 percent heat energy cost savings, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Experts are predicting growth in all sectors of the construction industry, including residential, commercial, institutional and government. In addition, the number of foreclosures is decreasing and mortgage rates are remaining at historically low levels. In a recovering economy, customers who put off fixing roofs, replacing windows and other construction-related improvements are more motivated to complete these projects.

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.

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