Design students from Pierre-Adrien Pâris Professional High School in Charlottesville’s sister city, Besançon, France, visited CATEC's building trades classes.

The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center is playing host to visitors from Pierre-Adrien Pâris Professional High School in Charlottesville’s sister city, Besançon, France.

During the stay, 12 high school and nine adult education students have worked with CATEC students to build a 16 by 16 foot energy efficient house.

CATEC Building Trades Instructor George Cheape said the two cultures take different approaches to career technical education, so the collaboration is serving both groups.

“The French students have more experience with design and less experience hands-on, and most of our students have more experience with the hands-on than design,” Cheape said.

Pierre-Adrien Pâris Civil Engineering Teacher Mickael Langlet agreed.

“It gives them a sense of being practical,” Langlet said. “For example, it’s easy to put two walls together on the computer, you just have to draw a line and that’s it. But here they have to think that this part has to be here or it will never fit with the other one.”

CATEC Green Technologies Teacher Rich Fletcher said the project is helping his students understand the design concepts they’re trying to achieve in real life, such as LEED and RT2012, France’s thermal regulations for buildings.

“We’re doing more with some of the initial design pieces, like modeling and creating a standard we’re going to achieve, then we can actually go out and build it and come back, then compare it to the design criteria,” Fletcher said.

“We’re going to benefit from understanding where the standards come from, his group is going to benefit from understanding the practical aspect and the difficulties of putting it together,” Fletcher added.

Pierre-Adrien Pâris 11th graders Simon Journot and Michael Ferreira said they’ve learned about the constraints of building in real life, and that, when designing, you have to think about the people who will build the structure.

In addition to the group’s studies, they have explored Charlottesville, attended a University of Virginia baseball game, taken tours of the Rotunda and Monticello, and will visit Washington, D.C. this weekend.

Additionally, CATEC Director Adam Hastings said, the students took important building lessons from Habitat for Humanity, which took the visitors to such projects as Burnet Commons.

“[Monticello] was quite good because a month ago our president went to Monticello,” Langlet said. “It was very good, not only the historical part, but Jefferson was at the edge of technology at the time.”

Journot, who is also a firefighter in Besançon, said he enjoyed the new Fontaine Avenue fire and rescue station. Ferreira said his favorite part of the trip so far was the ambiance of UVa’s baseball game.

The exchange students will begin their return trip this weekend.