Architektonic – Re-writing Sustainable Development in China


Victorian architectural firm, Architektonic, is re-writing the rules on sustainable development in China
When Joburt Betadam pitches his architectural services to firms in China, he uses sophisticated 3D animation technology instead of words. And the Chinese love it!

Joburt, who is Director of Victorian architectural firm, Architektonic, says that he learned very early on that a picture speaks a thousand words, particularly in China. This comes back to the fact, he says, that in the Chinese language, each written character is a visual representation of an idea.

“The Chinese are used to seeing things visually, so they need to be able to visually see what you sell. Once I got this right, things got a whole lot easier.”

Architektonic started life as a Melbourne-based architectural firm specialising in sustainable architecture, interior design and facility management. The company recently opened an office in Shanghai and is currently developing a masterplan for a new 900,000 square metre urban development in Tianjin. The new suburb will be based on the look and feel of Melbourne, and incorporate sustainable principles, which is an area of increasing interest for Chinese building construction and development firms.


“The Chinese view sustainable ‘green’ architecture as a very western idea, however by looking at traditional Chinese building design it is clear that many sustainable techniques have been used in China for millennia,” said Mr Betadam. “By demonstrating that their own architecture is very energy efficient and that energy efficiency also generates significant cost savings, many Chinese developers are choosing sustainable design.”


Since his first exploratory fact-finding visit to China in 2004, Joburt credits much of the company’s expansion to the assistance of the Victorian Government’s Export Connections initiative, and in particular Government trade missions.

“We have taken part in every Victorian Government construction trade mission in China for the past four years,” Joburt explains.

“Operating in China is all about developing relationships, and these events have opened doors and enabled us to be introduced to important Chinese officials that we would never have been able to meet otherwise.”

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Joburt says that the most difficult aspects of doing business in China are the language barrier and the fact that the majority of successful business deals are secured through high level relationships, especially in the upper echelons of Chinese government.

“Government to government relationships in China are very important and this is where the Victorian Government has been great for me. As well as assisting with introductions, the Government has been able to act on our behalf in negotiations when required.

“Language was also a problem that needed to be addressed. A lot of interpreters don’t understand architecture which means we couldn’t communicate properly with interested developers. In the end, I had to employ an Australian-Chinese architect who worked in Australia and China to deal with this side of things.”

Since winning their first job in China designing a large residential and commercial development in Tianjin, Architektonic has gone from strength to strength. The company boasts a number of major construction projects in its portfolio in Shanghai, Nanjing, Changzhou and Shenzhen. Joburt has also moved his family to Shanghai to be able to take advantage of the numerous opportunities available.

“Currently, I am participating in a organisational arrangement with a Chinese company where a collective ‘brand’ will be put into the marketplace offering Australian design as part of an integrated approach to delivering design and other services here in China,” he said.


“I am also introducing Facility Planning and Management as part of the services I offer, as the Chinese market is maturing beyond just construction for the sake of profit. Ecologically sustainable design is now a tangible deliverable for all Chinese projects and Architektonic is being sought out for this speciality.” Architektonic’s new Shanghai Office will accommodate 40 people and deliver distinctive Australian design solutions to the China market place. ■

For more information about exporting to China, visit


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