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The process of construction traditionally has involved the reworking of naturally occurring materials to form a new topography or to build structures. The one-off nature of construction renders prototype testing impractical, and hence specifications have been built up on a recipe basis justified by previous satisfactory performance. More innovative designs, whole life costing, design/build/operate procurement and the influence of European integration requires that materials control assumes an even more important role in construction. The relationship between material properties ascertained from one-dimensional testing and assumptions made in threedimensional computer simulation requires particular care with massive structures and geotechnical modelling, as does the change in properties with time. Product testing and European legislation are emerging as important commercial considerations for components, but care is needed on how these are integrated into construction projects. Consideration of timescale and conclusive testing often is restrictive when evaluating new materials or products, as are open ended objectives in performance. Finally, the emerging importance of risk assessment specifically related to materials selection and component performance is seen as a more rigorous way of influencing decision making.