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iSpan; A Complete Structural Solution for Mid-Rise Buildings

As part of a series of posts dedicated to reviewing a Mid-Rise Developer’s options for selecting the most appropriate structural system for the project, this post is dedicated to iSpan Systems. We will review the aspects of this system that are critical to a Developer’s decision-making process, such as quality, speed, and cost.


iSpan is a complete structural solution designed for LSF (Light Steel Framing) using CFS (Cold-Formed Steel). From a 10,000ft view, this system is typically recommended for buildings ranging from 5 to 10 floors, with 6 to 8 being probably their most efficient and competitive market segment. Lower than 5 floors, the wooden alternatives can be more attractive, and above 10 floors, the design becomes so complicated that this system loses most of its competitive edge. Developers can use this system in all types of mid-rise buildings such as hotels, condominiums, institutions and custom homes.


CFS products have many advantages over their traditional wooden competitors. The main advantage comes from the fact that they are manufactured in a controlled environment that significantly eliminates the possibility of a defective end product compared to wooden structural elements. In addition, the natural characteristics of steel are the main source of CFS advantage over wood. Its ability to take heavier loads, withstand natural elements, and resist fire for a much longer period gives it a lot of advantage over lumber.


iSpan, like many other CFS systems, can be categorized as a semi-prefabricated structural element. During the preconstruction phase, a lot of time is spent on engineering and fine-tuning the design. Then, the fabricated elements (such joists, decks, panelized walls) are delivered to the construction site with very detailed plans and specific tags, making the installation process very simple and quick. One of the advantages of iSpan compared to its more traditional competitors is the speed of the installation process. Although training and certification are a must for the installation crew, the comprehensive design and simplicity of the assembly make it much easier to master, which in turn leads to a more efficient and quick installation process. iSpan elements are designed in such a way that they do not require shoring for the floor construction. This allows other trades to start work right after the flooring assembly is installed without waiting for the shores to be removed.


iSpan benefits from a combination of three main elements that ensure the quality of the final product.
  • Comprehensive Engineering – As a construction manager, I’ve witnessed firsthand how thorough the engineering side of the business works.
  • Pre-fabricated elements – The fact that the material is manufactured in a controlled environment means that the product delivered to the job site has minimum possible flaws compared to wood which can always bring surprises with itself.
  • The simplicity of Assembly – Being easy to assemble means less room for the installation crew to make mistakes and create problems on the job site.


iSpan benefits from a combination of three main elOne of the main advantages of the iSpan System is its logistics on the job site. Unlike traditional structural steel (red steel), iSpan is short by design and in most cases, pieces are light enough for one person to move around the job site. This means that deliveries can be made on smaller trucks critical to many mid-rise (infill) projects that don’t have much staging and storage space on the site. Also, distributing the elements on the floor plan does not require expensive cranes and heavy machinery, which expedites the work.ements that ensure the quality of the final product.

Convenient Storage & Staging


iSpan flooring assemblies are great when it comes to ratings. While compatible with different types of flooring systems, they react very efficiently to vibration and noise. As a result, these assemblies not only meet the common code and industry noise criteria but are also much more effective than some of their more traditional alternatives, such as precast and wood. iSpan flooring assemblies can achieve a 1-hour rating with a single layer of drywall.


As a system, iSpan can be a very competitive solution in the mid-rise segment of the market. Depending on the economic cycle you are in at the time of construction, iSpan might not be the cheapest structural element out there. Still, once you start factoring in the indirect cost savings that it brings to the project (such as crane requirements, insurance premiums, site logistics, speed of construction, etc.), you’ll find that this system can be a great solution for many mid-rise projects in the market.


  • Total Structural Solution – Unlike many other innovative structural solutions in the market, iSpan has the ability to provide a total structural solution that eliminates the need for multiple trades and structural elements. This leads to fewer scope gaps, less coordination, and a smoother construction process.
  • Good for tight mid-rise construction sites – The inherent characteristics and features of the iSpan systems make it ideal for tight construction sites that cannot accommodate massive cranes or large laydown areas.
  • Cost Savings – iSpan might not be the cheapest system in the market in a one-to-one comparison, but it can indirectly save a lot of money for the project if properly designed and incorporated into the construction process.


  • Fire Rating – Almost all iSpan flooring assemblies depend on the layer of drywall underneath to achieve the required vertical fire separation. This brings some challenges to the construction process. This means that once the design is complete, it is costly (and sometimes hard) to change the penetration location on the floor.
  • Proprietary Design – iSpan products are all part of a proprietary system. This means there are limits to what the project’s structural engineer can or cannot do when it comes to the structure’s design.
  • Single Source Provider – Although a major steel manufacturing player backs iSpan, the fact that it is a single-source product makes it riskier in terms of supply compared to some of its more traditional competitors.
Payam Noursalehi
Payam Noursalehi

A Real Estate & Construction Professional with a passion for Mid-Rise projects. His experience comes from his exposure to multiple aspects of the industry, such as Engineering, Construction Management, Development Management, and Private Equity Investment.

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