Let me preface this column by saying that Corning (NYSE:GLW) does great business turning glass into a conduit for Al Gore's Information Superhighway one day, and into LCD TV screens for us to veg out in front of the next.

But you don't have to go all high-tech on glass to make a profit. Judging from commercial glassmaker Apogee's (NASDAQ:APOG) results, there's plenty of money to be made in windows and picture frames.

Last week, Apogee stunned the skeptics (yet again) with news that it had:

  • Grown revenue 20% to $217.7 million versus last year's second quarter.
  • Added 220 basis points to its operating margin, reaching 7.9%.
  • Improved its earnings by 50% -- yes, 50%.

To top it off, Apogee said business was so good it just had to raise guidance, and that the low point on its newest expectations was rapidly approaching the high point on its previous thoughts. The latest range: $1.43 to $1.53 per share, or about $0.06 higher than what we were told to expect just three months ago.

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Honestly, I'm not so interested in Apogee's results this quarter. I'm starting to become accustomed to the company's continually outperforming expectations -- so much so that I'm thinking it might be time to put some money into the stock (but per Fool Rules, not for 10 days after writing this). What interests me more today is what Apogee's results tell us about the industry that produces 91% of Apogee's revenue -- construction of commercial buildings.

You see, we just saw strong earnings reports out of office furniture producers Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) and Herman Miller (NASDAQ:MLHR) -- but we also heard Herman Miller warn that next quarter might not be so hot. Seeing that these two firms put furniture inside the buildings that Apogee helps put windows on the outside of, it seems their results should serve as leading indicators of Apogee's own architectural glass business (or vice versa).

CEO Russell Huffer called the market for both architectural glass and project flow "strong." "Revenues increased significantly," he said. And Q2 was "one of our highest booking quarters." While Herman Miller's news may have people thinking that the market for commercial office space is on the wane, Apogee's news suggests the contrary. It might even suggest there's better news ahead for Herman Miller and Steelcase than we've been anticipating.

What did we expect to see in Apogee's results last quarter, and what did we get? Find out in:

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.

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