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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.

Small and mid-sized construction firms looking to replace aging equipment or buy new equipment to help them grow are in line to get a significant boost from a financing environment likely to continue to improve throughout 2013. This time last year, many lenders were still working through the fallout caused by the bursting of the credit bubble, the economy was barely growing, and loans were more difficult to obtain as a result.

In the past decade, the popularity of “green” building has grown exponentially. But while sustainable building methods and materials continue to develop rapidly, many of the design and construction contracts surrounding green projects have not kept pace. Many contracts fail to address the unique and complex legal risks that accompany green building projects, especially those that aim to achieve third-party certification through LEED or a similar program.

The construction industry is quickly enhancing the science of construction project estimating – a concept as old as the ancient Egyptian pyramids – through new technology. These new tools have been instrumental in helping realize cost savings of time and money for the owner and developers as they bring projects to market.

According to a 1994 study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. capital facilities industry was losing an estimated $15.8 billion per year in efficiency losses because of inadequate interoperability among computer-aided design, estimating, facility management and other siloed processes and systems. Since that time, advancements in focused development and technology have reduced losses, especially in the area of cost estimation.

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