Untold thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed over 20 months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine, and even without an end date is sight, Ukrainian leaders are planning how to rebuild.
An Aventura-based builder of modular homes expects to play a large role.
John Senaltan, CEO of Global Modulars, has signed a memorandum of understanding with a Ukrainian company called Economy of Trust Global to build a factory in the nation, possibly as early as next year.
Senaltan, a Turkish-born Russian speaker who built hotels and resorts in Russia in the late 2000s, plans to help Ukraine rebuild its housing stock using shipping containers and steel-frame construction.
If all goes as planned, Global Modulars could become the first American manufacturing company to establish operations in Ukraine since the war started in February 2022, project backers say.
Global Modulars can build houses, apartments, hotels, offices, schools and retail buildings in half the time and for about half of the price of traditional brick-and-mortar construction, Senaltan says.
Each container is 320 square feet — enough for a small home with living and bedroom areas, bathroom and a kitchen, according to the company’s website.
For families and people who need more space, the company has designs for homes built out of two, three and four containers.
Global Modulars has even figured out how to build 4,000 square-foot mansions out of 12 containers.
The company saves time by building 85% to 95% of the house prior to delivering it to the construction site, Senaltan says. Walls, flooring, plumbing, windows and electrical wiring are installed at the company’s factory in Orlando while Global Modulars secures permits and builds a foundation out of steel beams at the home site. Then the containers are shipped to the home’s new location and lowered into place by a crane.
“Planning that typically takes six to seven months takes us one to two weeks,” Senaltan says.
The finished result, he says, complies with Miami-Dade windstorm codes with impact-resistant doors and windows. Plus they are supplied with LED lighting, waterproof vinyl flooring, air conditioning and insulated walls and ceilings.
“Our products are hurricane-proof, earthquake-proof and termite-proof,” he says.
The company moved its primary manufacturing facility to Orlando last spring after outgrowing its factory near Hialeah, he said, adding, “In Orlando, we can build up to 20 homes a month.”
Container homes becoming more popular
Though still a small segment of the U.S. building industry, the global market for container homes is expected to grow from $59.3 billion in 2022 to $87.1 billion in 2029, with Europe and Asia considered the most promising markets due to population growth and availability of used containers. according to a March report by Fortune Business Insights.
Henry Shterenberg, founder of Economy of Trust Global, an economic development consultant in Ukraine, hopes to develop a manufacturing hub around Global Modulars in Lviv, Ukraine, that will help the company build even more homes.
Interviewed by phone from the Netherlands, Shterenberg expects Senaltan to travel to Ukraine over the next month or two to formally take possession of the factory site in an industrial park between Lviv and the Polish border in western Ukraine, far from the eastern combat zone.
He said it’s not yet known when conditions will calm down enough to enable construction to begin on the plant.
“It will be John’s decision when to pull it together,” he said.
Financing the project shouldn’t be a problem, Shterenberg said.
The project should cost between $10 million and $12 million to get off the ground, he said. Investors have been identified, but Shterenberg declined to go into detail, saying it “should be straightforward because John is a well-regarded, experienced businessman.”
Funding for Ukraine’s redevelopment is being assembled through numerous international organizations. In March, the International Monetary Fund announced a four-year $15.6 billion loan program, part of a $115 billion global package to support the country’s economic recovery.
It will be important, Shterenberg said, to develop financing methods — a mortgage loan and a rent-to-own strategy — that will enable low-income families to acquire modular homes.
Bruce Talley, chief operating officer of OFC Incorporated, provider of logistics for large-scale sporting events, conventions, government projects and disaster recovery efforts, was instrumental in arranging the deal, and that it came together as a result of contacts he made during frequent travels to Ukraine since the February 2022 invasion.
He said he became convinced of modular construction’s potential when he visited a manufacturer in the Netherlands during the 2012 Olympics in London. “I was really impressed,” he said.
Talley, who lived in Russia for nearly 10 years until 2014, visited the region shortly after the war began and began thinking about potential solutions.
“Early last year, I was crossing borders and traveling through Poland, Moldova and Romania to learn and get a sense of the issues on the ground,” he said. “I thought immediately that modular would be a temporary and long-term solution for housing, schools, etc.”
Talley was introduced to Senaltan through the Modular Building Institute. Talley reached out to Shterenberg, who invited him and Senaltan to the Rebuild Ukraine Conference in Warsaw, Poland in February.
“And so we both went,” he said. “This is when talks first started between John and the Ukrainian side.”
Establishing Global Modulars in Ukraine is part of a larger effort to attract financing and industry to a country that’s been plagued by corruption, Shterenberg said. “Corruption is systematic,” he said. “People ask young mothers for bribes if they want their child to be born in the best possible way.”
A September report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified corruption as a potential stumbling block to Ukraine’s ability to rebuild its economy, noting concerns that elite members of the country’s government could take advantage of incoming aid and reconstruction money.
The report noted that even digital solutions intended to reduce corruption could be taken advantage of through inflated billing for software development, unnecessary “bug fixing” and nepotistic selection of vendors. Ukraine must resolve its corruption problem, the report said, “to facilitate reconstruction and recovery.”
The IMF package requires the country to strengthen anti-corruption efforts over the next two years, and Shterenberg says the effort will help determine the country’s future economic success.
Much hinges on “whether the world can trust Ukraine,” he said, adding, “that trust must be earned after the war.”
Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.