By Gary Hartley

The recession has hit most people, but with around up to 100,000 construction jobs likely to be lost as industry output drops by 5%, tradespeople may justifiably feel particularly worried.

But there is much talk of green jobs at the moment. Many new companies are springing up on the back of Feed-in Tariffs, offering ‘rent-a-roof’ solar deals. And, with even local authorities increasingly looking at microgeneration options for their housing stock, is the ‘white van man’ finding himself in the midst of a sustainable makeover?

Some of our recent surveys around making home alterations have produced interesting insights into what householders expect from builders – none less than the fact that, when looking for a builder, 56% of people would prefer one who would give them energy efficiency advice and fit the best products.

When refurbishing their home, 62% of people would like their builder to suggest ways of making it more energy efficient at the same time.

As it now seems like a good time for those in the trades to swot up on the installation of green measures, we are helping out. The housing professionals area of our website accounts for over a third of our business ‘hits’ and is constantly updated with new information and explanations of new building regulations. We’re also working with the trades to review qualifications around building treatments, air-tightness and under-floor insulation.

And now to the van itself. Last year, the Department for Transport launched the first van CO2 database, so the discerning van driver can cross-check emissions across the entire range of models.

The greenest of the green need look no further than Coventry-based Modec – the world’s first manufacturer of purpose-built zero-emission vehicles – who claim that their electric vehicles save approximately nine tonnes of CO2 per year when replacing a traditional diesel van, with a fuel cost equivalent of only five pence per mile, compared to 23 pence for a diesel van.

Not the petrol-guzzling behemoth we’ve come to expect, then!

This growing interest in the greener things in life may not be what some people expect from our white van cadre, but it’s just one indicator of why the stereotype of tradesmen as reactionary female-driver-botherers might need to go the same way as your old G-rated boiler.

Recent research commissioned by Aviva and conducted by OnePoll showed that seven out of ten white van men keep up with political developments, and half are always reading a book, compared to just 10% of sports car drivers – and most bikers admitted they loathe both politics and reading.

Behold, the White Van Enlightenment is upon us. Rumours of a spike in sales of emerald-toned commercial vehicles are yet to be confirmed.