Migrant Labor Camps

submitted by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Housing for migrant farmworkers is a subject rarely discussed, or even thought of, throughout most of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Surprising to many, there are currently over 260 migrant labor camps permitted by the Virginia Department of Health spread out over the entire state and this is actually a considerable reduction from previous years. When hearing the term “migrant labor camp” some will picture a group of trailers or even tents on a farm where seasonal farmworkers live during harvest time and in some instances that scenario may actually exist. However, that would actually be the exception rather than typical.

The Code of Virginia defines Migrant Labor Camp as “one or more structures, buildings, tents, barracks, trailers, vehicles, converted buildings, and unconventional enclosures of living space, reasonably contiguous, together with the land appertaining thereto, established, operated or used as living quarters for one or more persons, one or more of whom is a migrant worker engaged in agricultural or fishing activities, including related food processing.” The definition also excludes a summer camp, campground or hotel as defined in § 35.1-1 of the Code of Virginia; housing that, in the ordinary course of business, is regularly offered to the general public on a commercial basis and is provided to any migrant worker on the same or comparable terms and conditions as provided to the general public; and small businesses that are exempt under federal law as provided in the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act.

While barracks, bunkhouses and even trailer parks are not uncommon, it is also not unusual for a migrant labor camp to be one or more single-family homes. In many cases, these are farmhouses or guest houses located on a farm where the owner no longer resides and provides as farmworker housing instead.

Rules and regulations governing the construction and maintenance of Migrant Labor Camps (12VAC5-501) have been promulgated by the State Board of Health to ensure that safe and healthy living conditions are provided for migrant workers and their families while they are employed and living in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The chapter establishes standards and procedures that the State Health Commissioner will follow in determining whether a permit to operate a migrant labor camp should be issued, denied, revoked, or suspended. In a similar way the chapter also delineates the procedures and requirements with which a camp must comply in order for the camp operator to obtain and retain a permit.

The State Board of Health has the responsibility to promulgate, amend and repeal regulations necessary to protect the public health, the State Department of Health is designated as the primary agent for the purpose of administering these regulations and the district or local health department is responsible for implementing and enforcing the regulatory activities required by these regulations.

The Migrant Labor Camp regulation references the occupational safety and health (OSHA) standards governing temporary labor camps and states that all newly constructed migrant labor camps shall comply with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). While the
requirement to comply with the USBC appears to be straightforward and simple, it can and has created some confusion for camp owners, operators, Building Officials and Registered Design Professionals for various reasons. The most obvious is that it states “all newly constructed”. Does that mean a remodel, renovation, addition or perhaps change of occupancy is not subject to the VUSBC?

The short answer is no; all construction and changes in the use of buildings or structures in the Commonwealth of Virginia, unless specifically exempted, is subject to the VUSBC. However, there are challenges to compliance with the VUSBC while concurrently complying with the Migrant Labor Camp regulations and the referenced OSHA standard.

An example of this is a recently discovered conflict in regards to insect screening. The referenced OSHA standard section 29CFR 1910.142(b) (7) states that all exterior openings shall be effectively screened with 16-mesh material and screen doors are to be equipped with self-closing devices. In accordance with the VUSBC, pivot and side-hinged swinging doors shall swing in the direction of travel where serving a room or area containing an occupant load of 50 or more persons. In a barracks or multi-dwelling unit building, exceeding an occupant load of 49 persons is certainly not unheard of and meeting both criteria is not possible without adding a vestibule or a screened-in porch. In some cases, neither option is feasible. In cases such as this, where a conflict exists between the VUSBC and the OSHA standards, there are other options to resolving the conflict.

The regulations outline procedures for the State Health Commissioner or his designee to grant a variance and in a case such as described above this is likely the better option due to the life safety implications. The USBC also grants the local Building Official the authority to approve a modification upon application from an owner or owner’s agent provided the spirit and functional intent are observed and public health, welfare and safety are assured. In some cases, this is the better option and should certainly be given consideration. Collaboration between stakeholders is the key to resolving any conflicts between the OSHA standards and the USBC. It is to the advantage of all stakeholders including camp owners, operators, design professionals, the local health department and the building department to work collaboratively to ensure that safe and healthy living conditions are provided for migrant workers and their families while they are employed and living in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development
600 E. Main St. Suite 300
Richmond, VA 23219
804-371-7175

2021 Membership Dues

Over recent years, AIA Virginia has undertaken significant steps to improve member value while reducing organization expenses. In 2020, Supplemental Firm Dues were completely eliminated! This means there are no other dues obligations outside of individual membership dues.

You spoke loudly—the most important thing we at AIA Virginia do for you is advocacy. You expressed a desire for us to be more proactive on issues that elevate the importance of architects and good design. We heard you.

The AIA Virginia PAC supports legislators who understand our agenda and support our goals without regard to political party affiliation. By speaking with a unified voice, architects can influence legislation affecting our profession and the quality of life in our communities. For more information regarding the AIA Virginia PAC, please click here to read the FAQs.

How much of my dues payment will go to the AIA Virginia PAC?
$5 for Associate AIA members
$10 for Architect members
$10 for International Associate members

If this investment is acceptable, no action is required on your part. If you wish to divert your PAC allocation to our general operating account, please let us know by going to https://www.aiava.org/2021-dues-pac-opt-out/.

If you have any questions, please contact Corey Clayborne, FAIA, NOMA, MBA at cclayborne@aiava.org. Thank you for believing in what we do.

2021 dues PAC opt-out

AIA Virginia 2021 Dues PAC Opt-Out

Opting out of supporting the AIA Virginia PAC will divert 100% of your dues to our general operating account.

Listening Theatres: The Sounds of Iconic Landscapes and Architectural Spaces

Just Added!

The Musuem will sponsor an on line interview with the artists moderated by Joel Sanders, FAIA, on July 21, from 6-7PM.

To register for this event please go to www.branchmuseum.org.


The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design is pleased to announce, “Listening Theatres: The Sounds of Iconic Landscapes and Architectural Spaces,” an exhibition exploring how listening to created spaces can inspire creativity, imagination, and discovery of the surrounding world. The exhibit (July 16 – September 13, 2020) will include sound, animation, and drawings by Karen Van Lengen and Jim Welty. It will feature work using recordings and interpretive drawings, presented in active animations that celebrate the aural personalities of iconic architectures. Photographs of the drawings and stills of the animations are included in a colorful display that demonstrates the artists’ process. 

The spatial animations included in this exhibition are The Academical Village at the University of Virginia, and New York City spaces of Grand Central Terminal, The New York Public Library, The Seagram Building, Rockefeller Center and the Guggenheim Museum.

Karen Van Lengen is the William Kenan Professor of Architecture and former dean (1999-2009) at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. Van Lengen began her professional career as a design Associate at I M Pei & Partners before forming her own firm in New York City. Her recent projects have focused on the aural aspects of architectural space, bringing awareness to the comprehensive experience of ‘place’. This work developed during her University Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities resulted in the Soundscape Architecture website that displays creative interpretations and analytic drawings of the characteristic sounds of iconic buildings.  The University of Virginia Jefferson Trust supported the Listening to the Lawn website and the Open Gates animation project.

Jim Welty is an accomplished artist who created the animations for Soundscape New York and Open Gates as well as the Soundscape Architecture web site. Welty began his career as an artist working with Frank Stella as Master Printer and collaborator for over 10 years. He has exhibited his sculptures nationally, including a major exhibition entitled “A Short History of Decay,” at the Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. He is currently developing a new interactive body of work incorporating sound, animation and sculpture, extending the current project’s mission to foster genuine listening and engagement with our environment.

The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design is located at 2501 Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Fan District. The Branch Museum inspires current generations to appreciate, support and create exemplary architecture and design. The Branch is dedicated to the advocacy and stewardship of our rich regional heritage and invites the public to envision a world enriched by architecture and design. The Branch is open to the public Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. Learn more at www.branchmuseum.org.

Inform Magazine Event Submission Form

Taking Design Online: K-12 Outreach

As Virginia’s students, educators, and parents are working (and sometimes struggling) to adapt to a new online learning environment, architects and firms have an unprecedented opportunity to serve as a resource to the community. Let’s do what architects do best and nimbly design a solution to deliver online STEAM and design-thinking programming – with the secondary benefit of introducing a generation of learners to the profession of architecture!

  • Do you currently offer outreach programming that could be adapted to deliver online?
  • Are you interested in volunteering to develop or deliver online lessons to students?
  • Would you be willing to participate in an “Ask an Architect” session online with students?

Let us know and AIA Virginia can help make connections with local educators, take registrations for courses, and facilitate communication and online delivery of courses.

Now is the time to build relationships with educators and students (and help out parents who are trying to keep children learning and engaged)!

K-12 Outreach Clearinghouse

AIA Virginia is also working to develop an online clearinghouse of existing programs. If you, your chapter, or your firm has a program that you’re willing to share, please let us know. We want to be the go-to place for Virginia’s educators and parents to discover opportunities and architecture programming for students.

We’ll organize the courses you share and make them available to other architects and educators. But, we don’t just want your courses – we want your stories! We would love to share your experiences on our communications platforms.

K-12 Online Outreach Form

K-12 Outreach

Are you interested in connecting with students in grades K-12 to teach them about design thinking? Do you already have a STEAM program developed? Do you want to collaborate with other designers on new online outreach programs? Let us know.
  • Let us know the how you'd like to engage. Select all that apply.
  • Please select which grade levels you're interested in working with. Choose all that apply.
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AIARVA: Feedback Form

AIARVA: How Can We Support You?

As our community responds to COVID-19, we are in uncharted territory. Please let us know how AIA Richmond can support you and your firm.
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Let Us Know How We Can Support You and Your Firm

How Can We Help?

As our community responds to COVID-19, we are in uncharted territory. Please let us know how AIA Virginia can support you and your firm.