Lower funding, higher complexities, and economic uncertainty: these three factors make any construction project a challenge. For infrastructure projects in particular, such challenges become a constant struggle for planning and engineering professionals. Looking to keep pace with the upkeep of critical infrastructure across the country, professionals in this segment of construction are in search of software tools that help upfront in the conceptual and planning phases.

This past week we saw Autodesk, www.autodesk.com, San Rafael, Calif., introduce conceptual design software that that helps evaluate future infrastructure in the context of what already exists. Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012 is targeted at GIS, planning, and civil engineering professionals to help them accomplish the aforementioned task through the process of creating, evaluating, and communicating project proposals.

The product features two components. First is AutoCAD Utility Design 2012, which is a model-based design software for utility designers and engineers, allowing them to design, analyze, and deliver more productive and consistent electric distribution designs. The second is Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler 2012, which is a conceptual design software solution.

One customer in particular comments on how the Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler helps it use preliminary design data to help create and analyze a significant project presentation for a large hillside master plan project proposal in only two hours. The customer compares this against the same process using traditional practices, which would take, on average, two weeks or more.

Today the technology tools available can help not only with streamlining efficiencies during the project, but also upfront before the project begins. When it comes to planning and building infrastructure projects, the efficiency comes with doing so at a more economical rate and with less of an impact on the environment. This is where processes like BIM (building information modeling) become so essential. Companies like Autodesk, among others, are making such processes a critical focus for next-generation product releases and beyond.