From 1980 to 2003 urbanisation in China has made huge strides the world has ever seen, with 290% increase in urban population and 230% increase in per capita urban housing space. Recently, housing development, dominated by the market, has favoured large scale housing estates, which create whole new neighbourhood and even towns. The housing market is thus crucial to the realisation of the goal of urban sustainability set by more and more cities in China. However, the implementation mechanisms towards achieving such a goal are not fully provided for in the existing administrative and legal framework. On the contrary, some local governments, often working together with developers, are distorting and bypassing the existing development control mechanisms in pursuit of faster economic growth. In a fast-growing economy the outcome is often housing that consumes huge amount of material and energy but soon becomes inconvertibly sub-standard in physical and social terms. The Green Residential Area Certification (GRAC) Scheme was initiated by the Guangdong Real Estate Society (GRES) in Guangdong Province, which has been the pioneer in the China's reform and opening-up campaign. This paper examines the nature and operation of the scheme and its implications to the market-led housing development and urban sustainability in China. It evaluates the GRAC scheme, which scrutinises estate planning and design, construction materials, environmental quality, energy use, estate management and estate culture creation, and contrast it with prevailing British and international practices on sustainable housing development. With case studies and based on an interview survey conducted by GRES the paper explains its initial success in adding value to those housing estates that are certified, the increasing acceptance of the scheme by developers and greater awareness of its merits by home buyers. It then investigates the implications of the scheme on urban sustainability and housing development in China. Finally the paper explores the prospects and problems of the scheme in the technical and institutional contexts, and makes recommendations on improving the technical standards and promoting its wider adoption in other provinces in China.