Insufficient or inadequate infrastructure—and the resulting congestion, power outages, and lack of access to safe water and roads—is a global concern. Typically, the debate about the growing need for infrastructure focuses on whether financing is sufficient to meet it. But, in fact, there are clear ways to create more and better infrastructure for less.

Just keeping pace with projected global GDP growth will require an estimated $57 trillion in infrastructure investment between now and 2030. The $57 trillion required investment is more than the estimated value of today’s infrastructure. And this figure does not include costs such as clearing maintenance backlogs, meeting development goals in emerging countries, and making infrastructure more resilient to climate change. But given widespread fiscal constraints in the wake of the global financial crisis, even assembling the minimum investment required to meet growth predictions is a challenge.

Yet practical steps could boost productivity in the infrastructure sector—a long-time laggard—by as much as 60 percent, thereby lowering spending by 40 percent for an annual saving of $1 trillion. Over the next 18 years, this would be the equivalent of paying $30 trillion for $48 trillion worth of infrastructure.