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PSP Investments and Greystar Start Work on Chapter London Bridge

Today, PSP Investments and Greystar announced they started work on Chapter London Bridge, a new ‘best-in-class’ student accommodation asset: 

Greystar Real Estate Partners, LLC (“Greystar”), a global leader in rental housing, and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (“PSP Investments”), one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, today announced that works have begun on a new purpose-built student accommodation (“PBSA”) asset near London Bridge Station.

The asset will operate under the premium Chapter London brand, which currently comprises 11 assets across the Capital including Spitalfields, Old Street, Highbury and South Bank. With groundworks underway, the main construction work is due to start in March 2022, with the opening scheduled for the 2025 academic year.

The 39 storey, 453 ft. (138-metre) tower will comprise 905 student beds and 15,000 sq. ft. of world-class amenity space. It has undergone a rigorous design process, led by world-renowned architects Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (“KPF”), in partnership with Greystar’s in-house global design team. The design is inspired by the local neighbourhood and will create a best-in-class building that will contribute to the ongoing regeneration of this popular area of the Capital.

State-of-the-art amenities and sustainability features

Chapter London focuses on the wellness of its residents with buildings offering a wealth of amenities and exceptional customer service to create the very best resident experience. Through an exclusive membership system, residents can use amenities—and attend events at any Chapter London building, creating a city-wide community.

Greystar and PSP Investments have appointed Mace as the main contractor for the construction of the building. Mace will adopt a data-driven approach to reduce its onsite carbon footprint, coupled with modern methods of construction to significantly minimise the scheme’s environmental footprint.

The energy efficient tower will offer professional management and state-of-the-art features, supporting environmental sustainability and social inclusion. It is designed to be 100% electric, with a 100% certified renewable energy supply and rooftop solar. It will also leverage modern methods of construction, minimising emissions from transport, concrete waste, and water usage on site. The project aims to achieve a BREEAM rating of “Excellent” and a five-star Global Real Estate Sustainability (“GRESB”) score.

Greystar has worked closely with the London Borough of Southwark to discharge all pre-commencement planning conditions, and demolition contractors Cantillon have commenced work onsite to demolish Capital House on 42 Weston Street to prepare the site for construction. Blackstone Mortgage Trust (NYSE: BXMT) provided construction financing for the project.

Will Krespi, Director – UK Development, Greystar, said: “Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, London remains an attractive destination for students thanks to the Capital’s impressive higher education institutions; but there is still an acute shortage of high-quality accommodation. At the same time, student accommodation is a highly resilient and counter-cyclical asset class which has meant that the best assets are extremely sought after. By adopting a develop-to-core approach, we can create new accommodation within a purpose-designed and sustainable asset in a highly desirable part of London. Chapter London Bridge will showcase the very best in architecture, amenities and services to create an environment where students can truly thrive.”

Stéphane Jalbert, Managing Director, Head of Asia-Pacific and Europe, Real Estate Investments, PSP Investments, said: “We are pleased to expand our Chapter brand with this new development at London Bridge. In addition to providing state-of-the-art amenities for students from around the world, this purpose-built student accommodation building will incorporate the best sustainability features and will promote activities generating a positive impact on the local communities.”

Shaun Tate, Business Unit Director, Mace Tech, said: “We are delighted to have been selected as Greystar’s construction partner, working together with Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates to deliver such an ambitious scheme. Delivered through an advanced modern methods of construction approach, we will maximise bespoke off-site solutions to drive faster, safer and greener delivery to a consistent factory quality.”

John Bushell, Design Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates: “We’re delighted to be working for Greystar, a forward-thinking client that’s willing to embrace innovation in the brief, design, and delivery of this flagship development in Southwark.

“Since the initial planning decision in May 2019, the design has progressed in collaboration with Mace, maintaining the original design intent. We have rethought the building’s systems for energy efficiency and are embracing modern methods of construction to improve operational and embodied carbon, reduce construction times and minimise disruption to neighbours. This very proactive collective effort has enabled the project to move forward to the delivery phase.”

Steve Plavin, Senior Managing Director, Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies, said: “We are excited to provide PSP and Greystar with the construction financing for this landmark asset. The fundamentals of the London student housing market are excellent, and the Chapter project will help fill the demand for high-quality, environmentally sustainable housing in Central London.” 

About Greystar

Greystar is a leading, fully integrated real estate company offering expertise in investment management, development, and management of rental housing properties globally. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, Greystar manages and operates an estimated $220 billion of real estate in more than 210 markets globally including offices throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, South America, and the Asia-Pacific region. Greystar is the largest operator of apartments in the United States, manages more than 748,000 units/beds, and has a robust institutional investment management platform with approximately $45.1 billion of assets under management, including over $21.3 billion of assets under development. Greystar was founded by Bob Faith in 1993 with the intent to become a provider of world-class service in the rental residential real estate business. To learn more, visit

About PSP Investments 

The Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) is one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers with C$204.5 billion of net assets under management as of March 31, 2021. It manages a diversified global portfolio composed of investments in public financial markets, private equity, real estate, infrastructure, natural resources and credit investments. Established in 1999, PSP Investments manages and invests amounts transferred to it by the Government of Canada for the pension plans of the federal Public Service, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Reserve Force. Headquartered in Ottawa, PSP Investments has its principal business office in Montréal and offices in New York, London and Hong Kong. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

About Blackstone Mortgage Trust

Blackstone Mortgage Trust (NYSE:BXMT) is a real estate finance company that originates senior loans collateralized by commercial real estate in North America, Europe, and Australia. Our investment objective is to preserve and protect shareholder capital while producing attractive risk-adjusted returns primarily through dividends generated from current income from our loan portfolio. Our portfolio is composed primarily of loans secured by high-quality, institutional assets in major markets, sponsored by experienced, well-capitalized real estate investment owners and operators. We are externally managed by BXMT Advisors L.L.C., a subsidiary of Blackstone. Further information is available at

About Blackstone

Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative asset manager. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, and the communities in which we work. We do this by using extraordinary people and flexible capital to help companies solve problems. Our $731 billion in assets under management include investment vehicles focused on private equity, real estate, public debt and equity, life sciences, growth equity, opportunistic, non-investment grade credit, real assets and secondary funds, all on a global basis. Further information is available at Follow Blackstone on Twitter @Blackstone.

About Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is one of the world’s preeminent architecture firms, providing architecture, interior, programming and master planning services for clients that include some of the most forward-thinking developers, corporations, entrepreneurs, and institutions in the United States and around the world. The firm’s extensive portfolio spans more than 40 countries and includes a wide range of projects from office and residential buildings to civic and cultural spaces to educational facilities. Driven by individual design solutions, rather than a predetermined style, KPF’s mission is to create buildings and places of the utmost quality and contextual sensitivity, providing a valuable impact on the cities they inhabit.

As a global practice with a far-reaching impact, KPF endeavours to design lasting architectural solutions that mitigate their lifecycle impact on environmental resources and that protect and enhance the well-being of the communities they serve. For that reason, the firm has joined AIA, RIBA, and many of its peers in a joint effort to develop the capabilities to design and deliver carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.

About Mace

Mace is a global company of experts in shaping and making the built environment. It provides development, consulting, construction and operations services for many of the world’s most inspiring building and infrastructure projects and programmes – from Olympic parks and iconic skyscrapers to state-of-the-art data centres, schools, hospitals and homes.

The privately-owned company, headquartered in London, UK, has an annual turnover of £1.8 billion. Over 30 years, its growth has been fuelled by an adventurous spirit and the relentless pursuit of a better way. Today, the company employs over 6,000 people across five global hubs in Europe, Middle East and North Africa, the Americas, Sub Saharan Africa and Asia Pacific.

Mace is driven by its purpose to redefine the boundaries of ambition, and its vision of leading the way to a more connected, resilient and sustainable world. Find out more at

This is actually a very exciting real estate project which will add significant value to London's already burgeoning student housing market.
It's worth reading more about Chapter London Bridge:
A distinctive 39-storey building, with a faceted façade of three-dimensional bays, providing: accommodation for up to 905 students; flexible, affordable start-up space; and public realm improvements. 

London Tall Buildings Survey 2021

Chapter London Bridge is a distinctive 39-storey building, providing accommodation for up to 905 students; flexible, affordable start-up space; and public realm improvements. The project integrates with the urban fabric, reflecting the textures and materiality of nearby warehouses and responding to contextual rooflines.

 At its base, the facade is set back behind a colonnade creating wider pavements and an improved public realm. Above the ground floor, the building volume steps back and forwards, providing sheltered areas for small groups to meet and a hierarchy of spaces that direct pedestrians to the main entrances. Activated on all four sides, the ground floor is open, welcoming, and flexible. Floor plans employ lightweight construction around a central core, enabling future reconfiguration.

Student accommodation floors provide a variety of living options, from self-contained studios to clusters of two or three bedrooms with shared facilities and spaces for communal dining and socialising. Studios and bedrooms feature expansive views of the city and space for sleep, study and relaxation. Additional communal spaces for study, socialising and wellness, including a landscaped terrace, are located at the 37th and 38th Floor. Internally, windows are the principal architectural feature of each student room. Expressed externally through an arrangement of three-dimensional bays, the students’ windows create an abstracted fractal surface, the faceted façade evoking the play of sunlight on water. This facade uses repeatable components to minimise the number of unique fabrication forms. KPF developed computational scripts to define multiple variations of the randomised origami-like pattern that meet daylight and solidity requirements. This allowed designers to review multiple options quickly, and translate the design to the BIM model efficiently.

The scheme was approved at planning committee in May 2019. The design has progressed since the approval, utilising modern methods of construction to improve performance and reduce construction time.

Targeting BREEAM ‘Excellent’, the environmental design credential includes an all-electric system anticipating the decarbonised grid, air sourced heat pumps, natural ventilation and urban greening. Modern methods of construction will be used for internal and external elements, based on new developments in off-site fabrication and onsite assemblies. The efficiency of modern methods of construction can improve embodied and operational carbon and reduce site traffic.

A lightweight construction around a central core will enable reconfiguration at a future date. This means that the project could be adapted for different residential or hotel uses (or a mixture of both). Services throughout the building also allow for ease of refurbishment, including changes to room size and configuration. Adaptability to future requirements will extend the lifecycle of the building. Lightweight construction and limited fixed furniture will enable the social, study and wellness spaces at 1st, 37th and 38th floor to be programmed with flexibility in mind. These spaces will adapt with the changing needs of the residents over time.

Chapter London Bridge contributes to the public realm, creating a rich urban environment developed through consultation with local residents, groups and businesses. At ground level, the building is set back to provide more space for pedestrians. Active frontages ensure that the new building participates in the life of the area, bringing 24-hour activity.
Interestingly, the press release states this on the building's energy efficiency and social inclusion:
The energy efficient tower will offer professional management and state-of-the-art features, supporting environmental sustainability and social inclusion. It is designed to be 100% electric, with a 100% certified renewable energy supply and rooftop solar. It will also leverage modern methods of construction, minimising emissions from transport, concrete waste, and water usage on site. The project aims to achieve a BREEAM rating of “Excellent” and a five-star Global Real Estate Sustainability (“GRESB”) score.
Not exactly sure how "social inclusion" factors into this but it's clear that the building is energy efficient and meets the highest standards based on BREEAM and GRESB ratings/ scores.

As far as why PSP is investing in student housing, it's an important sub-sector in the Real Estate portfolio and it's countercyclical, meaning when there's a downturn, you can still rely on these assets to keep performing well.
It also plays on a key secular theme most pensions play but don't publicize, namely, rising inequality. 
The world's elite love sending their kids to study abroad to top US and UK universities. 
Add to this the fierce competition to get into top universities from students of all socioeconomic backgrounds from all over the world, including emerging markets, and you understand the resilience of this sector and why demand is so strong for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

Now recall, back in 2018, Greystar, PSP Investments and Allianz completed a £1.5bn London student housing platform joint venture:

Greystar Real Estate Partners (“Greystar”), a global rental housing leader, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (“PSP Investments”), one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, and Allianz Real Estate (“Allianz”), the global real estate investment and asset manager, today announced the completion of a joint venture partnership to grow Chapter, London’s leading student accommodation brand.

The joint venture was announced at exchange on 22 June 2018 and has now secured all regulatory approvals, thereby allowing the transaction to complete.

Allianz has acquired an interest in Chapter alongside PSP Investments and Greystar’s current stake. The equity investment volume of the transaction that Allianz Real Estate is executing on behalf of various Allianz insurance companies, stands at around £350m. The new partnership supports an expansion programme targeting 10,000 student beds and doubling the size of the portfolio within five years. The partnership’s strategy is to continue to grow the portfolio through acquisitions and new developments in addition to continuing to improve the existing assets and Chapter brand.

Greystar is the global leader in the operations, investment and development of rental housing with over 435,000 units under management globally. It will continue to manage this portfolio, which currently comprises 5,100 student beds in ten central London locations, including Aldgate, Islington, King’s Cross, South Bank and Spitalfields. Chapter White City in west London and Chapter Highbury II in north London, the two newest additions to the Chapter portfolio, will launch in September 2018.

Commenting on the JV partnership on 22 June, Bob Faith, Founder and CEO of Greystar, said:

“This partnership marks an important step in the rapidly growing institutional-grade rental housing and student accommodation investment market in the UK. We are excited to partner with PSP and Allianz on this exciting endeavour. We have a hugely ambitious target to scale the business to secure major operational efficiencies. This joint venture means we’re now in a strong position with tremendous financial resources to realise Chapter’s potential.

“London’s housing market is under enormous pressure and student accommodation in prime locations is highly constrained,” added Faith. “London is a global leader in higher education attracting students from around the world and Chapter is well positioned to provide quality housing in prime locations. We have built Chapter into a strong brand, which students and parents from around the world trust to provide a safe and secure home while they are pursuing their studies.”

Commenting on the JV partnership on 22 June, Stéphane Jalbert, Managing Director (Europe and Asia Pacific), Real Estate, PSP Investments, said:

“We are very excited to welcome Allianz, an internationally renowned and respected real estate investor, into our established and successful partnership with Greystar. Chapter is now a recognized, income-generating business and this new partnership will strengthen and grow this highly efficient purpose-built student accommodation platform. Allianz and Greystar share our long-term view and focus on high-quality assets in central London with a steady income stream. Teaming up will facilitate a period of expansion for Chapter in London.”            

Greystar and PSP Investments were advised by Eastdil Secured, LLC and Jones Day. Legal advisor for PSP Investments was Linklaters LLP. Allianz was advised by Savills and Herbert Smith Freehills.

Since then, I read that in March 2019, the joint venture acquired a large purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) asset in London’s Shoreditch from Apache Capital Partners. The purchase of the Paul St. East scheme for over €184.9m (£160m) was one of the biggest single-lot transactions in the history of Britain’s PBSA sector and represents a significant addition to Greystar’s Chapter portfolio (see more details here).
I'm not sure if PSP and Greystar acquired Allianz's stake in the joint venture but I did notice the latter wasn't mentioned in the Chapter London Bridge project.

Regardless, this deal highlights the continued attractiveness of UK PBSA to institutional investors and the growing maturity of the sector as an asset class, but it also shows you how the market is evolving to integrate ESG factors into the mix.

It's also worth noting PSP Investments isn't the only large Canadian pension investing in UK PBSA.

In November 2021, I discussed CPP Investments' big bet on the European PBSA market, discussing its record €1bn+ European student accommodation joint venture with Round Hill Capital.
At the time I said: "The UK will always lead the European PBSA market for a simple reason, it is home to some of the best universities in the world and offers a great education to those wanting to study at an English university abroad."
In related news, PSP Investments also announced that Integral ILS surpassed $1B capital deployed, with total investor commitments reaching $1.4B:
Integral ILS Ltd. (“Integral”), the independent Insurance-Linked Securities (“ILS”) fund manager, today announced it has surpassed $1.1B of investor capital deployed. The firm also announced it has raised in excess of $1.4B since its founding in July 2020. 

Over the past year, the firm has received several new commitments from institutional investors in addition to increased allocations from its cornerstone investors, New Holland Capital and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments).  

Integral’s investing strategy is primarily focused on catastrophe-linked insurance and reinsurance transactions, and benefits from in-house risk origination capabilities and comprehensive access via strategic partnerships with TransRe and Amwins.

Integral Co-Founder and Managing Partner Richard Lowther said: “Our AUM growth is a testament to the demand we’ve seen among sophisticated institutional investors to add catastrophic risk to their portfolios, especially those looking for alternatives to fixed income and credit strategies.”

Integral Co-Founder and CIO Lixin Zeng added: “We have long believed that institutional investors with long-term time horizons have a structural advantage when it comes to holding catastrophic risk exposures, and we’re pleased to see continued investor interest in our bespoke strategy.”

Scott Radke, CEO of New Holland Capital, said: “Integral has an exciting market opportunity, as current pricing in the market has reignited interest from institutional investors that have historically avoided catastrophe risk assets. We’re enthusiastic about their specialized, investor-friendly approach to the market, and we look forward to our ongoing partnership with the Integral team as they continue to scale.”

About Integral

Integral is a Bermuda-headquartered independent ILS fund manager founded in July 2020 by industry veterans Lixin Zeng and Richard Lowther. Strategic partners TransRe, a leading global property and casualty reinsurer headquartered in New York, and Amwins, the largest independent wholesale distributor of specialty insurance products in the United States headquartered in Charlotte, enable Integral’s investors to have comprehensive access to the broader natural catastrophe and event-linked insurance value-chain.

In November 2021, I discussed why PSP Investments dipped into insurance-linked securities, noting this:
  • The ILS market is growing and catastrophe bonds (Cat bonds) make up the bulk of the market but other forms of reinsurance risks are being collateralized. 
  • Insurance-linked securities are considered an asset class that has little to no correlation with stocks and bonds and are thus attractive to large pensions looking to diversify their returns.
  • The market is growing, it is scalable and that too is of interest to large pensions looking for scale.
  • There are risks in the ILS market which is why it makes sense to partner up with experts.
It doesn't surprise me that Integral ILS has raised in excess of $1.4B since its founding in July 2020.
Investors are increasingly looking for new strategies that offer good, consistent yields but aren't correlated to stock or bond markets, and insurance-linked securities offers these attributes.

And importantly, the market is growing, it is scalable and is now offering investors more opportunities as long as you find the right partner(s) to invest in the asset class.

Let me wrap it up there.

Below, 2020 was a strong year for the UK’s purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector, according to a report1 from global real estate firm JLL. World-class universities in the UK are a favorable choice for international students in pursuit of higher education and JLL predicts full-time student numbers to rise by a further half a million by 2030.

According to JLL’s Student Housing Report, investor appetite remains robust due to PBSA’s defensive, income-producing characteristics.

In this fireside chat with CBRE’s Director Yin Yeung, as well as Associate Director Kirsten Dyer and Associate Director Riah Patel, provide more insights into the demand and supply of PBSA in key UK cities. They also share how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may impact trends in student housing as well as the latest Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) numbers and their expected impact on UK student accommodation.

Dr Tan Kok Heng, CEO of Sunway RE Capital Advisors (SG) provides his insights on this and how investors can tap into opportunities in student housing assets.

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