CHAMPAIGN, — As a research specialist in sustainable planning and design at the University of Illinois' Building Research Council, Donald Fournier spends a lot of time talking to just about anyone who'll listen about the merits of "green" construction methods and practices.

Until recently, his cheerleading was not necessarily inspiring any home teams or winning over new fans, outside of the usual suspects: the environmentally inclined. Architects, designers and contractors remained understandably wary of changing the way they do business because going green usually translated into larger outlays of another kind of green, Fournier said.

But that's finally beginning to change. "There are many things you can do without increasing costs, and maybe lowering them," Fournier told audience members attending his talk on "Greening New and Existing Buildings" at the recent "Planning Matters" institute held at the UI and sponsored by the university's department of urban and regional planning.

Still, Fournier noted, "Everybody says, 'Well, prove it.' People are still afraid it's going to cost more." Information about how the greening of the home- and commercial-building industry can save builders and clients money largely has been anecdotal, he concedes. But real examples are becoming increasingly common. And design and architectural firms, as well as federal agencies and states and municipalities -- Chicago, Seattle, California and New York among them -- have taken notice and adopted green building policies.

One example of a less-expensive green alternative is concrete made from fly ash, a waste produced from coal combustion, instead of Portland cement. "Locally, you can get it cheaper than regular concrete, and it's a superior product," Fournier said.

Another example is paint. Regular latex paint contains volatile organocarbons, or VOCs, which are known carcinogens and mutagens. At least one manufacturer offers a toxin-free product that costs $3 to $4 dollars less per gallon than standard house paints on the market.

To achieve significant results, however, architects and builders have to adopt an integrated approach to building green, Fournier said. "The whole concept is that if you build a better envelope on a building, you can reduce the size of the mechanical systems. Cost savings then can pay for a better envelope. But if you don't do it in an integrated manner, with the architect and other design disciplines working as a team and optimizing the building as a whole, then you don't achieve cost savings."

Another proponent of the integrated approach to green construction practices is William Sullivan, a UI professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, and of landscape architecture. Sullivan chaired Illinois' first ever Governor's Conference on Building Green March 26 at the UI.