Content:
  1.  What is Miyamoto International?
  2.  How they work in Ukraine
  3. Money and business in Ukraine
  4. Turkish tragedy and Ukraine
  5. On Kyiv and how it can avoid becoming Jakarta

They were involved in the reconstruction of Japan and Haiti after the earthquakes, and now they are building thousands of apartments in Ukraine. Over the decades, Miyamoto International engineers have participated in the reconstruction of tens of thousands of buildings. Now the company is one of the first to invest in the reconstruction of Ukraine. The volume of investments is already estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The owner of the business is a Japanese-American, Kit Miyamoto. He is an engineer and holds a Ph.D. from the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

We meet Miyamoto at the entrance to the company's Kyiv office. He is wearing a white construction helmet and an olive sweatshirt with the patch "Glory to the Nation, Death to the Enemies" on the shoulder. The businessman has just returned from Vyshhorod, where his company is reconstructing a building near which a Russian missile exploded.

"You have a very beautiful city," Kit Miyamoto says of the capital over a cup of tea. He comes to Ukraine every month.

His company specializes in engineering. Specialists assess the damage and scope of work, as well as plans for construction work. Their focus is on countries that have suffered from disasters or wars.

His company is currently planning to rebuild in seven oblasts: Chernihiv, Sumy, Poltava, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Dnipro. Their emphasis is on speed. That's why they take on buildings that can be restored relatively quickly — installing windows, making a roof, and fixing holes in the walls.

In an interview with LIGA.net, Kit Miyamoto talks about the volume of reconstruction and his investments in Ukraine, as well as the upcoming construction boom. We also asked him about the causes of such significant destruction in Turkey and about Kyiv's construction mistakes.

 What is Miyamoto International?

 - Your company started working here in September. Who invited Miyamoto International to Ukraine?

In Ukraine, we cooperate with the US government, the UN and the Japanese embassy. We have a platform for working with the UN. The initiative to start working here came from both us and them. We have long-term agreements with the UN and the US, so it is easier for us to receive funds and use them here.

 - What is your mission here?

 This is the first time Ukraine is facing a catastrophe, a major disaster and such destruction. As of July alone, 100,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

 We provide our expertise to help rebuild after such destruction. Our Ukrainian managers and engineers are doing this here.

 - How many other companies in the world work in the disaster management market?

 There are some American companies that also work with the humanitarian sector. But they are not here, you know?

 - Miyamoto International is still a business, not a charity. In what format do you work and how do you make money?

 We are a global engineering company with a humanitarian focus. That is, half of our work is business related to conventional engineering, and the other half is business related to disaster relief.

 In total, we work with disasters in 30 countries: for example, Turkey, Italy, India, Nepal, even Mexico and Colombia.

 - Is your work here long-term or project-based? In other words, are you in Ukraine for a long time?

 Our goal is not to come to the country, make quick money, and leave. We work according to the purpose revenue model (a model of work that involves making a profit in the long run — ed.). Our goal is to make investments and have a long-term commitment to Ukraine. It may sound silly, but it works in the long run.

What is the logic behind it? Business should definitely be profitable. But if you focus too much on profits, you become too short-sighted in your business strategy, and it won't work. That's why we are playing for the long haul, so that we can have a high-quality, influential local business here in the future. We are also here to help.

 - Do you see the role of business as key to the recovery?

Our experience shows that after a disaster or war, only 10-15% of buildings are reconstructed with public money. 85% are private investments. That is why business is critical for reconstruction.

 How they work in Ukraine

- Who do you coordinate with in the Ukrainian government?

We work here and coordinate our work with local authorities and united territorial communities. It is faster and easier to start working this way. We have had meetings with top management, but everything is at the negotiation stage.

Very often, it is not us who initiate the reconstruction, but the local authorities come to us with a list of what they need. On the other hand, there are also tasks coming from institutions.

Money and business in Ukraine

- What is your scope of work in Ukraine?

We are working on 7,000 housing units. These are private houses and apartments, plus 50-100 schools. But this is "nothing" compared to what has happened here. That is why we want to reach tens of thousands of apartments and houses.

- 7,000 objects: how quickly will you restore them?

It should be done within six months. People still live in many of the destroyed apartments.

- Do you take on any objects or do you somehow choose them?

We mostly work on objects where there is no critical damage. For example, a rocket hit, the roof and stairs burned down, and there are holes in the walls from shells.

Someone might say about reconstruction: "Why not wait until the war is over?". The answer is: because people don't wait. Many people live in destroyed housing.

Yes, we don't know when the war will end, but people want to live. And they want to live right now.

- Have you estimated how much it will cost to repair these 7,000 objects?

Repairing one home costs $1,000—5,000. Accordingly, the repair of 7,000 homes costs $7-35 million. But it is much faster and cheaper than building a new one. It will take two months for the home to be back to the way it was before. And this is important because time is of the essence.

- How do you finance this work? Where do you get the money from?

It's a combination of EU money, as well as the US and Japanese embassies. It goes through the UN, and we get contracts from them. But most of this money goes to the builders, who are hired by the UN. We do the assessment, engineering and quality control. We restore some facilities at our own expense with the help of the Miyamoto Relief nonprofit.

- You said that the total cost of the work is $7-35 million. How much of this money is the cost of your engineers' services?

Usually, it is 5-10% of the total cost of the work.

- How many of your engineers work at these facilities? Will you hire them here?

We currently employ about 100 people. All of them are Ukrainians. I would like to hire several hundred by the end of the year.

- In addition to business, you have the Miyamoto Relief fund. Everyone can make a donation to rebuild a particular country. How much money does Miyamoto Relief receive per month?

We have not counted. This fund helps to restore places where business or the government cannot reach with their hands and money.

For example, in one of the villages near Kyiv, there is a destroyed and abandoned kindergarten. No one is working on it because of the extensive destruction. And 100 children of the district can study there. It turned out that people from California gave money to repair it: to repair the walls and install windows. This is because Ukraine inspires the world. It inspires the world by showing how brave Ukraine can resist a huge army of invaders.

- Do I understand correctly that you are now investing your own money in Ukraine?

We have been working here since September, employed 100 people, restored several facilities in Kyiv Oblat, and another 3,000 facilities are in the works right now. So far, it's all done with our money.

- How much have you invested so far?

I can't say exactly because we have many offices. It's hundreds of thousands of dollars.

- Is your involvement in rebuilding Ukraine more about business or a desire to be on the right side of history?

It is 100% about moral reasons. No country should be left to do everything on its own.

- What is the business sense of your investment in rebuilding a country at war? What are you hoping for?

We are playing for the long haul. Soon you will see many companies coming to Ukraine to work and build. But most of them will make money and leave.

We will stay, it's a completely different approach to business. For example, we are still working in Haiti, where we came to work in 2010 after a terrible earthquake. We are becoming part of the country.

Using Ukraine as an example, one day peace will return here. And then we will become an ordinary engineering company. We will work with the government and the private sector. This is what we do in other countries.

- When do you expect to make a profit in Ukraine?

In case of disasters, it usually takes six months, a year. Usually, our profit is less than 1% of the cost of the work (less than $70,000-350,000 — ed.). Most of the profit goes to the builders. I hope we will receive funding from the UN in a few months.

- Do you feel that your investment is very risky? Aren't you afraid of losing money?

In every country we go to, we hire locals and create jobs. We are probably the first company to invest here. Because everyone is afraid to invest here during the war. But it's the same with earthquakes. Aftershocks after an earthquake can last for a year, even two. You can't wait, you can't stop life, you have to keep working and building.

Turkish tragedy and Ukraine

- Your approach is quick repairs, not construction from scratch. Wouldn't it be better to build new housing?

For example, the Turkish authorities said that they would repair only 30,000 housing units, but they would demolish 100,000 and rebuild them. This is impossible, it's a bad policy. This is billions of dollars. It's good marketing, but it doesn't work.

If you build something new, it takes a year or longer. People can't wait: they can't stand it and move, find work elsewhere, children go to schools elsewhere. Speed is very important in rebuilding.

When a disaster strikes, the economy, jobs, and living standards plummet. Some countries never return to the previous level. But timely reconstruction can raise living standards even higher than before the war. It all depends on how quickly you start rebuilding. That is why Ukraine is doing the right thing by starting now.

-You have worked in Turkey, Afghanistan, and New Zealand, where powerful earthquakes have occurred. And recently you have been working in Ukraine, where destruction is caused by war. Does Ukraine have the highest level of destruction among all these countries?

During the earthquake in Turkey, 15,000 people died in a minute. Some cities, like Hatay, simply disappeared as if there had been a nuclear strike. In Ukraine, the destruction is incredible, huge, but it is everywhere — all over the country. Even though you can't see the cities that have been leveled from here.

- Of course, in Ukraine, a lot of attention was paid to the tragic news from Turkey. What mistakes in construction did the terrible earthquake reveal?

I was recently in Turkey, where we collected information on reconstruction and gave advice to the authorities for faster recovery. But Turkey is a country of earthquakes, and the case of their destruction is different from the Ukrainian one. Here, the Turks made two mistakes.

The first was that in 1998 they changed the building codes. Therefore, everything that was built in the 2000s is very dangerous. Second, they don't have licenses for engineers and contractors. Even you can become a contractor in Turkey tomorrow. It's chaos.

- So one of the reasons is the quality of buildings?

This is a matter of inspections and quality control of buildings. I think the quality of building materials was critical during the earthquakes.

Some of the buildings were not only made of concrete. For example, river stone was used instead of fieldstone. They also used asbestos for roofs (a toxic mineral, inhalation of its fibers can cause cancer, it is used to make slate — ed.) It is already banned in Ukraine.

- What lessons can Ukraine learn from these disasters?

What the Turks did right was a very quick mass reaction to the disaster. I've seen dozens of reactions of states to disasters. The Turks mobilized 125,000 of their own rescuers and another 10,000 from 115 countries. They repaired the roads in three days. They opened Hatay airport in four days.

- Is the destruction from earthquakes and shelling similar?

The destruction is similar, the damage that occurs in structures during an earthquake and the damage that occurs from a bomb's shock wave are similar in consequences. Therefore, our damage assessment methods are universal.

In Ukraine, engineers pay more attention to details, so there would be less destruction in Ukraine during an earthquake. Because designers of bridges and reinforced concrete frames always count on critical loads and model the most severe operating scenarios.

On Kyiv and how it can avoid becoming Jakarta

- Your company specializes in engineering. But you often visit Kyiv. Have you tried to analyze how our capital is being built up?

You really have a very beautiful city. I know that some of the historic buildings here are being demolished to make way for skyscrapers. Don't do that. You will regret it. It would be tragic to lose a city like this.

You know, Japan went through this. We did not appreciate the houses that were 100-200 years old. They were beautiful. And they were replaced by terrible skyscrapers. A building does not have to be 500 years old to be considered a heritage. The 100-year-old ones also need to be preserved. Kyiv needs to be preserved.

- What pros and cons have you noticed in Kyiv's development?

Well, there are no earthquakes here (laughs)... But, as far as I can see, there are no height restrictions. But there should be. This is important for design and heritage preservation. I saw a historic factory being restored here — fantastic idea.

Ukraine used to be not as popular as Italy as a tourist destination. But now Ukraine is famous.

You can have a lot of tourists after the war. That's why preserving history is important. If everything resembles Jakarta, who will want to come here?

- You mentioned the tallness. The threat of missile and bomb attacks may be with us for a long time in the future. So should our developers and authorities reconsider building codes and tallness?

There are two answers. The first is that there should be limits on tallness. The second is that it is far from certain that a high-rise building will fall victim to a strike. However, there is always the fear of a progressive collapse: when one part collapses and everything else falls.

Investing in the earthquake resistance of a building will cost 1% of the work. But this will avoid collapse: one column will fall, but everything else will stand. This is definitely important for schools, government agencies, and hospitals. Also for large residential complexes with high density. This will save many lives.

- Earlier you mentioned that Ukraine is on the right track in its recovery. How do you see Ukraine's recovery?

There will definitely be a construction boom, and there will even be a shortage of materials, builders and engineers. There are a lot of challenges in rebuilding. I think a total of 50,000 to 100,000 housing units will be repaired this year.

As for our company, we have a big goal here, we are ready to help, create together and stay here for a long time, working for the benefit of Ukraine.

Oleksandr Myasyshchev

correspondent