Public Architecture

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a day laborer?
How big is the day laborer population?
Aren’t most day laborers illegal immigrants?
Who hires day laborers?
Why does there need to be a day labor center?
How is this project different than existing day labor centers?
How big is the Day Labor Station?
What materials is the Day Labor Station made out of?
Who is the client for this project?
How is this project sustainable?
How is the facility maintained?
Where can I find a Day Labor Station?


Q: What is a day laborer?
See About / Day Laborers

Q: How big is the day laborer population?
There are rough estimates about the size of the population, but according to a 2006 Ford Foundation-sponsored study by UCLA’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty, more than 117,000 people look for work as day laborers each day. The vast majority are male.

Q: Aren’t most day laborers illegal immigrants?
While there is no official accounting of the percentage of illegal immigrants in the day laborer population, it is believed that the majority of the workers are without official documentation. Illegal or not, day laborers represent a significant component of the workforce, and thus, the economy. Day laborers can--and often do--pay taxes regardless of the immigrant status. And a 2002 Washington Post article reported that most immigrants in the workforce consistently pay more in taxes than they use in services.

Q: Who hires day laborers?
Contractors make up a significant percentage of day labor employers, but almost half of those who hire day laborers are individual homeowners.

Q: Why does there need to be a day labor center?
Currently, there are roughly 65 official day labor centers across the U.S. The vast majority of day labor sites (almost 80%) continue to be at informal locations, such as street corners and home improvement store parking lots. There is no infrastructure at these locations to support this activity, and often, the workers lack access to even the most basic of amenities such as drinking water, shelter, and toilet facilities.

Q: How is this project different than existing day labor centers?
The typical model for the majority of day labor centers in existence is the "union hall" model, which often runs counter to the culture and organization of the day labor system. The Day Labor Station is a responsive design, based on the realities of the way in which day laborers seek work. The Day Labor Station is also flexible enough to accommodate a variety of uses from employment center to meeting space to classroom.

Q: How big is the Day Labor Station?
The prototype of the Day Labor Station is 8’-0”w x 50’-0”l x 12’-0” h, not including the canopy extension, which provides 850 sq. ft. of shelter from the elements. However, the dimensions of the station can change depending on the specific context in which the project is sited.

Q: What materials is the Day Labor Station made out of?
The Day Labor Station is designed as a kit-of-parts and so the materials can change depending on availability, location, and preferences. The version on display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum uses the following material palette:

  • stained lumber--benches, decking, structural lumber
  • steel--structural members, roof purlins
  • fiber cement--interior wall
  • masonite wrapped in used billboard vinyl--exterior siding
  • solar modules--roof
  • recycled pvc tiles--kitchen floor
  • salvaged stainless steel counter--kitchen
Q: Who is the client for this project?
Part of Public Architecture’s mission is to address situations in which the problem and/or client is not a given, but instead must be identified. In this project, the clients are the day laborers, a group that traditionally has not had access to quality design environments. However, recognizing that a successful worker center is dependent on a successful collaboration between all stakeholders, Public Architecture has engaged and will continue to engage municipalities, businesses, and communities in the development of this project.

Q: How is this project sustainable?
The Day Labor Station is designed to utilize green materials and strategies. Materials used are salvaged or recycled wherever possible. Green products include fiber cement and recycled pvc tiles. In the section of the Station on display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, used billboard vinyl is employed as part of the exterior siding. Other green features include a dry toilet, low-flow fixtures, compact fluorescent lighting, and photovoltaic modules. The latter is particularly significant in that it allows the Station to exist off-the-grid.

Q: How is the facility maintained?
The Day Labor Station will be built and maintained by the day laborers themselves. It can be economically sustained by through several models. In the current configuration, there is a small kitchen facility based on a food truck model. This will allow a small food service business to be run out of the station. Proceeds from this business will go towards sustaining the Station economically. A business, municipal, or nonprofit steward might also contribute to the maintenance of the facility.

Q: Where can I find a Day Labor Station?
At the moment, a full scale section the Day Labor Station can be seen at the Design for the Other 90% exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York. We are working to install the first full prototype of the Day Labor Station at a site in the next year. If you are a business, municipality, nonprofit, or day laborer and would like to talk about establishing a Day Labor Station in your area, please contact liz@publicarchitecture.org.

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