Alaina Kowitz: Where do you live and what do you do?

Joel Cesare: I live in Venice Beach, CA. My day job is Sustainable Building Advisor for the City of Santa Monica. I also run an action-sports, sharing-economy startup called StokeShare and serve on the Executive Committee of the Surfrider Foundation.

AK: What are you most excited about for this year’s Living Future unConference?

JC: I am excited for the unexpected inspirational moment that Living Future always provides. This will be my fifth Living Future. What makes it the best conference in the world is the guarantee that I will learn fascinating new ideas, meet incredible leaders, and witness groundbreaking projects come to life.

AK: Can you give us a taste of what you’ll be talking about in your session at Living Future?

JC: The City of Santa Monica is building the world’s first municipal full Living Building Challenge project, our 50k-square-foot addition to City Hall. Our session will illuminate how our design team navigated the numerous regulatory challenges we encountered to make it happen and how city leaders maintained their commitment to the Living Building Challenge in the face of some public opposition.

AK: Where do you think we should be focusing as a sustainability community in 2018?

JC: Urgency. The world needs more Living Buildings and Living Communities and we need them now. I’m proud to be a part of the ILFI movement but I worry about its slow adoption in the private sector. The world’s natural systems don’t have time for us to be patient. How can we make this movement scale faster?

AK: What’s your favorite thing about Living Future?

JC: The people I meet. I am always in awe at the brilliant, passionate, incredibly hard-working people I meet who are spending their professional lives trying to make the world a better place.

AK: What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you over the past couple of years?

JC: I am the project manager for a building that will be in the conversation for the world’s greenest building. It feels important. I dreamed of being part of something that matters. Going to work every day trying to meet the demands of the Living Building Challenge is pretty special. As Denis Hayes once said, “In any rational world this is the future of architecture.”

Register for the Living Future unConference to hear Joel’s session:

Written By

Alaina Kowitz

Alaina serves as the Communications Design Manager at ILFI, upholding and guiding the Institute’s visual and written brand. She also works on the Trim Tab blog site and serves as editor for guest posts and other written projects. You can reach her at