By BUILDER Magazine Staff. Porch lights on new houses--lots and lots of new houses--were one of the few beacons shining brightly in an otherwise difficult year. Housing pretty much held the economy together in 2002, prompting President Bush to personally thank the industry for keeping the nation's collective head above water.

Home building and home entertainment sales were among the few islands of prosperity in an otherwise dismal year. Consumers chose home, often a new home, as the place to hunker down and face a barrage of bad news. Even the good news was mixed: Interest rates hit record lows (bad for retirees but good for home sales).

Home embraced meaning beyond investment--refuge, mental bunker, safe viewpoint for an amazing amount of reality disaster on TV. And watching television in home's safe haven, perhaps, spurred the home entertainment system sales.

This was a tough year for many: Jangled by the primal pain of terrorism's aftereffects, the United States went to war. It faced recession compounded by corporate malfeasance. Televised daily, we saw smoke-filled clips of exploding mountains in distant Afghanistan, only to be replaced by smoky clips of horrendous forest fires, perhaps the worst in a century.

Test Your Industry Smarts
Big Deals: Serious Money
Recession to Recovery
Six Design Trends
Cornerstone Awards: Above and Beyond
Adventures in Home Building
10 Time-Tested Tips
Most Popular Products
Ten Cultural/Consumer Trends
Heroes of the Planet
Predicting our Future

No question the overall economy sucked. Stocks plummeted, 401(k) plans evaporated, and employers announced layoffs, as each month seemed to reveal more corporate high jinks in Fortune 100 companies. Toward year's end, Armani-swathed executives shuffled across our screens sporting handcuffs. Meanwhile, prognosticators swore the United States was not having a double-dip recession.

As 2002 wound down with housing sales still strong, BUILDER's editors probed beneath the headlines big and nasty. Read on for the scoop on trends, innovations, communities, products, tips, and more to juice your business--or just make you shake your head.