Rapid urbanization in developing countries such as China has been creating unprecedented opportunities for the adoption of sustainable construction (SC). Owners, as a key driver of urbanization, play an influential role for other stakeholders to undertake SC practices. However, lacking their demands and requirements of owners were regarded as the main barriers for the adoption of SC. Notwithstanding the diversity of previous studies on the barriers to SC, there is a dearth of research from the owner's perspective. This paper presents an empirical study identifying the critical factors impeding the adoption of SC from the owners' point of view. A list of 25 factors was preliminarily identified through extensive literature review and interviews with industry professionals. This was followed by a questionnaire survey to collect owners' opinions on the relative importance of these factors. Using factor analysis, seven most critical factors are identified, namely, economic feasibility, awareness, support from project stakeholders, legislation and regulation, operability of SC, resource risk, and project management model. The research findings show that economic feasibility, awareness, legislation and regulation are the most important factors impeding owners in adopting SC practices. This implied that the government plays a vital role in removing the barriers impeding the greater adoption of SC by building owners in China. This is helpful for a transition to the low carbon urbanization.