Pop quiz: Who made the lighting fixtures in the room where you're reading this? Don't feel bad if you don't know; I came up with the question, and even I don't know the answer. Lighting is just one of those things that we all largely take for granted. And while it's part of a competitive industry, Acuity Brands (NYSE:AYI) might be worth bringing to light.

Sales increased 6% because of volume and pricing improvements during the company's fourth quarter. The lighting business, three-quarters of sales, showed the strongest sales performance with 7% growth, while the specialty chemicals business saw its top line move up 3%. All in all, demand was pretty good.

Unfortunately, Acuity needs raw materials like steel, aluminum, plastics, solvents, and other petroleum-based chemicals. As you can imagine, that's a bit of a problem these days, and the company's gross margin was down year over year as a result. While the company did manage to squeak out 4% net income growth, share dilution led to negative EPS comparisons. It should also be noted that there were some charges and gains in the quarter that gum up easy comparisons -- the company lost $0.09 for severance costs, but gained back $0.03 from a property sale and $0.06 from a lower tax rate.

Turning to the other financial statements, inventories look to be in good shape -- down 3% as reported and down 6% on a per-unit basis. The company has made a concerted effort to become more efficient with working capital utilization, and this report shows the benefits. Free cash flow for the full year came in at more than $104 million, nearly 76% better than last year and more than 17% of sales. Though I think the company has largely picked the low-hanging fruit with respect to improved efficiency, I do expect that management will continue to generate solid cash flow performance.

That cash flow, coupled with a potential revival in non-residential construction, makes Acuity a bit interesting to me. If the company is capable of growing cash flow at a double-digit rate for the foreseeable future, then the shares could be interesting indeed. Better yet, you'll get a decent dividend while you wait. True, Acuity has to contend with the likes of Cooper (NYSE:CBE), Genlyte (NASDAQ:GLYT), and Hubbell (NYSE:HUB.B) in lighting and Ecolab (NYSE:ECL) and many others in specialty chemicals. But the company has done pretty well already, even in the face of a tough non-residential market and rising supply costs.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).