There’s no doubt about it; 2009 was a brutal year. With the credit freeze, a world economic recession, and record unemployment, it was likely the worst economic year in most people’s lives. Still, there is hope.

Though the job market continues to be dismal, The New York Times reported on Oct. 29 that the nation’s GDP expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the quarter that ended in September. Credit has loosened some, and the housing market is starting to thaw, albeit slowly and cautiously.

The question is: How do you prepare for the new housing market that’s just around the corner? Research, research, research. And there are few places better for such an undertaking than the International Builders’ Show (IBS), which is once again setting up shop in the Las Vegas Convention Center in January.

You can expect manufacturers’ product introductions to mirror the cautious optimism of the overall market with items that are useful and interesting, yet sedate. The introductions have practical applications for buyers and consider both the environment and the wallet. In fact, energy conservation and sustainability play prominent roles in the products at IBS 2010.

Consider the 4-inch compact fluorescent downlights that Cooper Lighting has added to its popular Halo line. The line clearly has energy efficiency in mind; they’re also designed to prevent airflow between living areas and the attic.

Owens Corning says its Innovision is the first fiberglass window made without mechanical fasteners and will come with low-E, argon-filled, double-pane insulated glass as a standard offering. Ply Gem’s newly expanded Mira Premium Series aluminum-clad window line will feature low-E glass and argon fills to meet Energy Star thermal requirements in all climate zones. And Gerber Plumbing Fixtures will unveil a new collection of Wicker Park high-efficiency toilets and low-flow bathroom faucets.

No one knows for sure what will happen with the economy, but that’s no reason to be uninformed. This is a time for discovery and learning. Here, then, are some buzz-worthy picks to check out at the show next month.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Las Vegas, NV.

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