The cul-de-sac of 40 small houses is everything you might expect in American suburbia. Minivans sit parked in perfectly proportioned driveways. Clumps of kids ride bikes around the neighborhood. Dogs bark behind backyard fences. A nearby four-lane drones in the background. What is not so obvious is that this tiny community offers a peephole to the future -- a future in which homes will generate and conserve as much energy as they require.

"If we continue to construct the same kind of inefficient buildings that put high demands on the power grid, we will have to build additional supply-side infrastructure to serve them. What we need is to fundamentally change the way we approach the construction and operation of our buildings. If done right, we, as a nation, can have our cake and eat it too." -- Patrick Hughes, ORNL, buildings technology research program