Why Buildings Become Listed (Criteria Checklist)

Building listing requires evaluating cultural and architectural heritage values. The quality of a building and its territory’s history, architecture, engineering, and culture, points out a significant value for evaluation. For a property to qualify for the national register, it must meet one of the following:

  • Being associated with an important historic context
  • Retaining historic integrity of features that reflect the building’s significance

A building can be listed for one of these two measures; hence it can be listed for both as well. It should be noted that the same criteria must be applied to the considered buildings whether the concerning department decides to add or remove them from the list. [1]

Listed Building Characteristics

There are over 10,000 listed buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and the National Archives (NARA) is responsible for maintaining the register of these buildings. [2] Buildings are added to the list after going through an assessment of evaluating each component belonging to the property. As a result, the following characteristics are examined:


A building is more likely to be listed when it is older. Especially the ones built before the 18th century that survived with their original conditions are listed, while most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 go through some selectivity procedure. The ones built between 1840 and 1914 are selected based on their demonstrated technological advances and should be of definite quality and character. As for the buildings constructed after 1935 and buildings less than 30 years old, they should be outstanding and include the best works of important architects. [3]


Importance is attached to the rarity of the building type, construction techniques, and style. A very old building with fewer surviving examples is more likely to have historic importance.

Selectivity or Group Value

When there is a large number of buildings with similar characteristics, the most representative and significant examples are chosen by the policymakers. These are buildings that form part of an architectural ensemble, such as terraces or squares.

Architectural significance

Architectural interest encompasses a broad range that comprises style, ornamentation, interior plan, character, and functionality. The construction techniques and how the building has been changed over time are considered in this criterion. Buildings can also be given added significance depending on the quality and survival of the interiors.

Historic and National Interest

Different than “Age”, a building can be an early example of a particular period, an architectural type, or structural development, such as the King’s Cross Train Station in London. These buildings define the representatives of an important part of the history, style, type, and its development.


A building’s original fabric and its significance add an interest compared to its peers. It is not the case that the building preserves its original state, but also the additional features or changes may have added to its interest. However, buildings with historic original fabric are considered as the highest importance.


The buildings with significant architectural recognition from recognized architects are given special attention.

Social, Cultural, or Economic Importance

Buildings with social and cultural importance such as schools, churches, or halls are some of the most significant examples of this group. Some structures may also be important because of their contribution to economic development. Other properties that create social interaction between groups of people may also be deemed as listed for social importance, such as market squares.

How are Listed Buildings Chosen?

Buildings are added to the listings normally as a result of a systematic survey and review of the building with attention to particular areas. The department dealing with the listings is also responsible for compiling the list and determine key criteria of each building.

To put forward a building for listing, it is necessary to make an application to the national authority. The council will assess the evaluation in 4 steps: research, consultation, completion, and decide whether the building should be listed. Various types of surveys are used for the purpose of the identification process of the proposed property.

What are Different Categories of Listed Buildings?

Each listed building has its own listing description; however, they are first graded according to their maintenance needs.


Criterion A

Criterion A is applied to the properties that contribute to the American history, important events in the funding and development in the industry.

Criterion B

Criterion B is applied to those properties associated with persons who are significant in the funding of the industry.

Criterion C

These are properties significant as representatives of design and construction quality with their architectural forms or style.

Criterion D

Criterion D concerns properties that can convey important information about prehistory, history, and its industrial process.


Grade I

Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest with the highest significance. Represents around 2.5% of the listed buildings.

Grade II

Grade II means the property requires more than special interest. Represents around 5.8% of the listed buildings.

Grade II*

The vast majority of buildings are in this category as they are the most common and surviving listed buildings. They require special interest, and these are the most likely grade of listing for a homeowner. [4]

Figure 1. St. Sampson’s Church, Grade I listed building

Many councils, for instance, Birmingham and Crawley Borough Council, use a listing of locally listed buildings as a separate evaluation in addition to the above-mentioned categorization. [5]


Category A

Buildings of special architectural and historical interest. These are outstanding examples of some particular period, style, or a building type.

Category B

Buildings that are considered as major examples of a particular period, style, or building type.

Category C

Buildings that are representative examples of a particular period, style, or building type.


Grade A

These are buildings that demonstrate excellent architecture of a particular period or time.

Grade B+

These are high quality but relatively lower than Grade A buildings.

Grade B1

These are good quality and examples of a particular period or architectural style.

Grade B2

These are all the rest of the buildings that qualify with few attributes. [6]

Listed Building Search

There are different online tools for figuring out the building listings depending on where you are.

What parts of the building does the listing cover?

Generally, the building listing covers all the interior and exterior parts of the building, the layout, and any other object or structure attached to the building, unless some parts of it are specifically excluded in the criteria evaluation. [7]

The listing can also cover:

  • Extensions that are added in a later period
  • The defined area where the building is situated, boundary walls, and garden features

Benefits of a Listed Building

Being a listed building gives it a prestigious value and an acknowledgment that it is part of the national heritage. As being said, these buildings increase the value of their location, and these properties continuously increase in value to be considered as a long-term investment. As a matter of fact, a listed building appreciates in value over time more than other properties- it is unlikely that a property to depreciate over time unless it has been seriously damaged or mistakenly replenished. In order to protect and continuously increase their value, they need to be carefully looked after and maintained using traditional methods and appropriate materials.

Another benefit of owning a listed building is the pleasing aesthetics that are combined with original features such as wooden beams, stone mullion windows, and open fireplace. This is the key fact that they stand for longer periods than other buildings and will probably continue to live for many years.

Disadvantages of a Listed Building

Legally, a listed building cannot be demolished, extended, or altered without special authorization from the local authority. The function of the listing is to control and monitor these activities.

As being said, the listed buildings require high maintenance with planned schedules -some need strict maintenance activities every year- and create additional costs for owning a listed property. As rebuild costs are higher, the average insurance quote is higher as well. However, the owner may be able to get grants for repair and refurbishment activities in order to encompass these costs. [7]

When a property is monitored for maintenance, essential repairs or renovations that are approved must be undertaken using the same materials of the studied area. There is also the need for skilled labor specialized in listed property renovation.


[1]                 National Register Bulletin, How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation.

[2]       https://npgallery.nps.gov/nrhp

[3]       https://www.lpoc.co.uk/help-advice/what-is-a-listed-property/

[4]       https://birmingham.gov.uk/info/20042/

[5]       https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/data-downloads/

[6]       https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/articles/listed-buildings

[7]       Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 – Application for Listed Building Consent for Alterations, Extension or Demolition of a Listed Building.

[7]       https://www.directline.com/home-cover/magazine/buying-a-listed-property