The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland has the role of protecting the nation's built heritage. According to The Cultural Heritage Act no. 80/2012, buildings and other structures and individual parts of them that have heritage, scientific or artistic value are considered to be part of the nation's built heritage, such as:
- individual buildings or parts of such buildings and groups of buildings, whether they are residential, cultural or commercial, and whether they are in urban or rural locations whether they are groups of buildings or a street facade;
- churches and places of worship with their ancillary structures, such as church towers, dry stone walls, cloisters, community centres, school buildings and their immediate environment; other public buildings, sports facilities and swimming pools;
- bridges and any kind of communications structures, power stations, dams, pumping stations and other energy structures, harbour constructions, wind and water mills, lighthouses, slipways, drying sheds, man-made caves and sheepfolds.
There are three levels of protection for buildings and structures:
There are 492 buildings scheduled pursuant to the older legislation from 31 December 2012. In addition to this the Minister can decide scheduling status for other buildings and structures, or for parts of such buildings and structures, that have heritage, scientific or artistic value, having received a proposal from The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland.
All buildings 100 years or older have protected status.
Building work on buildings and structures that were erected in or before 1925 and churches that were erected in or before 1940, is subject to assessment.
The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland can decide emergency scheduling status for buildings and structures that have special heritage, scientific or artistic value, but that have not been designated as scheduled or that enjoy statutory protection, if there is a risk that buildings will be spoiled, demolished or their value diminished in any manner. While emergency scheduling is in force the rules of protection apply.
Emergency scheduling comes into force when The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland has informed all stakeholders of its decision in a verifiable manner. The decision is binding after notification has been received by the parties and applies for up to six weeks.
The Minister shall decide whether the heritage shall be scheduled before expiry of the emergency scheduling, having received a proposal from The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland.