- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 11 May 2018
The term ‘plant’ refers to machinery, equipment and apparatus used for an industrial activity. Typically, in construction, ‘plant’ refers to heavy machinery and equipment used during construction works.
At the smaller scale, there may be some overlap between what is considered plant, small plant, tools, small tools or equipment. Very broadly, ‘tools’ might be considered to be instruments that are used by hand, whereas ‘equipment’ might refer to a set of tools used for a single purpose.
Construction plant is generally re-useable, and so as well as being purchased new, it may be purchased second hand or hired. The Construction Plant Hire Association suggest that, ‘The UK plant hire industry is the best established and most professional in the world, and is worth over £4 billion to the UK economy.’
For more information, see: Plant acquisition.
 Considerations when using construction plant
Construction projects, in particular, large and complex projects, are increasingly dependent on construction plant, and there are a wide range of issues that need to be considered in its use:
- Public safety, employee safety and CDM. See below for more information.
- Type of applications.
- Programme, lead times and continuity of use.
- Crane zones and lifting operations.
- Storage and theft.
- Power and fuel.
- Maintenance and breakdowns.
- Standards and regulations.
- Nuisance (noise, vibration, dust and so on). See below, and see Nuisance in construction for more information).
- Logistics, access, segregation and diversions. See Site layout for more information.
Health and safety in particular is vitally important in the deployment and operation of plant on site, particularly in relation to cranes, mobile plant and vehicles. There are a number of regulations that must be adhered to and there is a wide range of guidance available from the Health and Safety Executive.
The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) includes a registration card scheme demonstrating the skills, knowledge and understanding, competence and qualifications of those involved in plant operations.
Nuisance can also be a significant concern in the operation of construction plant, in particular in relation to encroachment onto neighbouring sites, damage to neighbouring property, noise, vibration, dust, mud, disruption to traffic and so on. Careful planning and the strict application of site rules to contractors and sub-contractors can help alleviate such problems, with particular consideration given to; hours of operation, transport routes, washing down of vehicles, damping dust, the provision of hard surfaces for vehicles, the provision of information and help lines and so on.
- Site accommodation.
- Communication links.
- Fabrication and installation.
- Temporary services.
Increasingly, Building Information Modelling (BIM), and the development of Virtual Construction Models (VCM) are being used to organise construction works and the deployment of plant on site, in particular in relation to the use or cranes and other lifting equipment.
 Commonly-used types of construction plant
A list of commonly-used construction plant is provided below, along with links to articles providing more information:
According to The Code of Estimating Practice, seventh edition, published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in 2009, the term 'standing plant' refers to, 'Plant retained on site that is not working, but for which a contractor is still liable'.
The Code of Estimating Practice suggests the term ‘general plant’ refers to; 'Part of a contractor’s project overhead calculation for plant, excluded from unit rate calculations, and which is available as a general facility on site. Durations for general plant are usually taken from the tender works programme.’
The Code of Estimating Practice suggests 'down time', or 'standing time' is, ‘The period of time that plant is not operating. This may be due to breakdown, servicing tie or an inability to operate due to other factors.’
General attendance is the description of main contractor attendance available site wide to all suppliers or sub-contractors. Special attendance is specific to particular suppliers or sub-contractor if requested.
For more information, see Attendance.
When it’s rainy and there are high winds, it may be difficult to operate machinery and cranes. Work sites can be hazardous due to uneven surfaces, wet grass, and mud can cause dangerous travel for those driving (and walking). Make sure to drive carefully over rough terrain.
Terrain hazards can cause water collection increasing the risk of drowning or machinery getting stuck. Make sure to inspect all sites after heavy downpour and to mark off or fill in any holes and washed out areas that can cause slips, trips, and falls. Be aware of all overhead hazards, especially power lines when operating and moving equipment.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Avoiding crane collapses.
- Bituminous mixing and laying plant.
- Code of Estimating Practice.
- Compact construction equipment.
- Compressed air plant.
- Concreting plant.
- Construction tools.
- Crane supports.
- Crane regulations.
- Earth-moving plant.
- Excavating plant.
- Facade retention.
- Forklift truck.
- How to manage construction plant.
- Lifting devices.
- Piling equipment.
- Planned preventive maintenance.
- Plant acquisition.
- Power float.
- Pumps and dewatering equipment.
- Rubble chute.
- The Code of Estimating Practice.
- Trench support.
- Types of crane.
- Vesting certificate for construction goods plant or materials.
- Wheel washing system.
Featured articles and news
As the latest summer blockbuster 'Skyscraper' is released, we look at some of the best uses of buildings in film.
Read our introductory article on how to layout a building.
New cross-party report calls for combustible cladding ban to be extended to all high-rise residential buildings.
Dr Nicholas Falk, director of the URBED Trust, explains why metro cities are the future of urbanisation.
From next week, UK firms can bid for a share of a £12.5m fund to boost productivity, performance and quality.
A right to light generally refers to the right to receive sufficient light through an opening.
Interference and compatibility - the effects of electromagnetic fields in the workplace.
Important action is being taken to inspire young people to train as engineers.
A survey of Leicester’s historic buildings resulted in local listing being taken more seriously.
Demolition is the most high risk activity in the construction sector. Read our introductory article here.