Not true, says Stephen Protz, founder of Arc8X, and a LEED-certified architect who has worked in Shanghai for seven years.
"Actually, it does not cost more to achieve LEED silver certification, for gold rating it costs just 2-3 percent more. Adopting green practices costs time and effort to think differently and find new ways to do things," says Protz. "It's about thinking long term rather than short term."
Another problem is providing incentive structures, which particularly affects the residential market - a crucial part of the construction industry.
"The business model in residential development is more complex," says Qian. "For example, if a property is for rental, then developers will care about energy efficiency as they reap the benefits, but not if it's for sale as it goes to the tenants."
In this case government incentives can help, as can consumer awareness. An example is the Linked Hybrid development due for completion this year in Beijing. This residential and retail complex has made its green credentials a selling point - it has geothermal heating and indoor clean air ventilation systems.
But while these features are easy to understand for consumers, more important green credentials are often invisible.
"It's not about throwing in some solar panels, or using impressive sounding technology. It's about how to put technology together in the most suitable way for the building, and making it commercially sustainable," says Qian.
Thus despite some high-profile, government-led examples, true green architecture is still scarce in proportion to the commercial market.
"The green building movement in China is at its very beginning. There are some noteworthy smaller projects, but big, true green architecture does not exist here yet," says Protz.
"Ideally the government, consumers and developers should balance each other in a triangle," he says. Recent examples of green buildings Olympic Village The humble Olympic Village compound may not be as flashy as the Bird's Nest, but it's a winner in the environmental stakes.
In August last year, the Olympic Village was awarded LEED gold award for a host of environmentally friendly features including solar panels, efficient windows, green spaces and rooftops, as well as rainwater recycling systems.
The Olympic Village buildings use 50 percent less energy. It is a high-profile example of the government's willingness and ability to build green, but importantly it also considers commercial viability.
Originally designed to house 16,000 Olympic athletes, the residential compound will mostly be converted into luxury apartments early this year. Most of these have already been sold.
Shanghai government will follow this example by 2015 with a huge, 1-million-square-meter green development in New Jiangwan Town. This mixed development of residential, retail and office buildings will also aim for LEED certification on whole neighborhood design as well as individual buildings.
According to EMSI, the green consultants on the project, a "green" neighborhood consists of the restoration of compact, walkable, mixed-use towns as opposed spread-out car-friendly planning, plus planning for smart development.
Innovative new technologies used include combined cooling and heating power generation, which recycles by-product heat from electricity generation. Nokia building
Completed earlier last year, the new Nokia China Headquarters Building received LEED gold award last April. So far it is the only new construction commercial building in China to be awarded the LEED gold award.
Located in Beijing, the 74,000-square-meter site comprises of offices and an R&D building. Commercial office spaces built on green principles save energy and water. Studies have also shown that a healthier working environment full of natural daylight significantly raises employees' productivity while reducing sick days.