TESCO Sheringham: Structural solutions in a virtual world

It took 17 years to achieve planning approval for a retail supermarket in Sheringham. Its construction, however, was completed on time and within budget thanks to the use of a Building Information Model (BIM).

Planning was finally granted in the picturesque English seaside town of Sheringham, located on the North Norfolk coastline to build a 15,000ft² supermarket on a brownfield site. The scheme included the relocation of the local fire station and community centre. Construction was completed on time and within budget thanks to an effective Building Information Model.

For designing the structural components, Pinnacle used Tekla Structures modelling software and undertook design analysis with Fastrak to test the structural design virtually. This project was chosen as the Best Engineering Project at the Tekla Global BIM Awards 2013.

An innovative approach to construction

Aiming to create a unique building that blended in with the town’s surroundings, the design team had an opportunity to maximise the use of BIM and adopt a fresh and innovative approach to design and construction of the store. 

Tesco Sheringham has a geometrically unique structure with a complex roof design.

The BIM process provided a greater understanding of parametric relationships between building components improving the coordination process. BIM played a large part in the structural design and detailing of foundations, concrete, steel frame, prefabricated items, and detailing the façade producing construction information including bills of materials.

A clearer understanding of the complex geometry of the asymmetric roof, bespoke to this building, was provided utilising 3D visualisations. This provided a greater clarity of complex areas which 2D drawings would struggle to define.


Improved communication and understanding of complex issues

“BIM allowed the design team to combine the architects and mechanical engineers’ 3D models along with our own multi-material model created with Tekla software” explains Stephen Gaffer, technician at Pinnacle.

Collaboration was undertaken by the design team utilising web-based viewers to improve communication and highlighting where complex issues lie. During the design process, models were exchanged in a controlled manner to ensure the structural requirements were aligned with building models from other disciplines. This was undertaken in IFC format.

Pinnacle incorporated drainage and terrain models from its civil engineering team to ensure drainage runs and substructure requirements were internally coordinated.


Pinnacle combined the design teams models to provide a complete virtual visualisation of the finished building.


Future shopping experience visualised for the client

Combining the design teams models allowed Pinnacle to provide their client with a complete visualisation of the finished building in a virtual world.  This aided key decisions prior to the construction phase and provided an interactive approach to design reviews.

Tesco Sheringham's timber-frame utilises an innovative connection system.

Material cost reductions and design changes

”One of the projects biggest achievements arose from our knowledge and expertise in 3D terrain modelling,” says Stephen Gaffer. This, combined with value engineering techniques, resulted in a reduction of material that would otherwise be exported off-site totally. This also contributed to reduced vehicle movements and disruption to the town’s traffic system as well as significant cost reductions.

Supporting the unique timber structure and roof scape provided a real challenge. A structural scheme had to be adopted to provide flexibility to the retail plan and construction programme.

A design was adopted that provided total flexibility. Columns could be strategically placed to avoid walkway aisles and enhance the customer experience. This also provided flexibility for future alterations with zero impact on the development costs.

The structural frame was procured in two packages. The timber-framed sales area designed and manufactured in Switzerland, utilising an innovative connection system. The back of the building was a traditional structural steel frame. Using the 3D environment, the interface between the two disciplines was coordinated to ensure that structural members were interfaced and connected correctly prior to fabrication.


Offsite manufacture

Pinnacle utilised Tekla Structures to produce component details for other items that were to be manufactured ‘off-site’ including bespoke precast concrete units and pre-fabricated reinforcement cages, all produced in one data rich model.

Tekla Structures ground beam to column base detail.

Lessons learned for the future

Understanding software compatibility and version control is important to understanding how the team will collaborate with their data. Also, establishing a common data environment and well organised structure of data drops played an essential role in the collaborative process.

“We undertook trial data exchanges at an early stage to ensure compatibility amongst the team. Agreeing responsibilities for building geometry and sequence of modelling benefits a ‘right first time’ approach to what was a complex part of the project.” explains Stephen Gaffer.

Pinnacle also developed a greater understanding of how to utilise sub-contractors data and incorporated into a ‘seed’ model as design responsibilities changed. 


Tekla Global BIM Awards 2013 Winner - Tesco Sheringham

Project facts 

  • Client: Tesco Stores Ltd.
  • Architect: Smith Smalley
  • Structural engineer: Pinnacle Consulting Engineers Ltd.
  • Mechanical engineering: WSP Group
  • Main contractor: R G Carter
Complex geometry of the TESCO Sheringham asymmetric roof.
Complex geometry of the TESCO Sheringham asymmetric roof.
Complete visualisation of TESCO Sheringham finished building in a virtual world.
TESCO Sheringham, completed on time and within budget thanks to BIM
TESCO Sheringham flint wall, a unique building that blended in with the town’s surroundings.
Tekla Structures model of TESCO Sheringham.