I think one thing that might cause confusion here is that at first glance, "faith" seems like a rather arbitrary requirement...especially since the nature of belief is such a tricky one: We only believe that which we consider to be believable (chicken or egg?), so until we find the gospel believable...why would we ever believe the gospel? It's kind of a sticky wicket from a volitional standpoint...and some different theologies seek to address this with their different takes.
Maybe more fundamentally, though, I think we can consider that God requires obedience. He created the universe, and He sets the laws of this cosmos. To violate the laws He set forth is a pretty big deal, whether we realize it or not, and so God is well within in His right to punish all disobedience (which is rebellion against the sovereign God's created order committed by the very creatures he gave life to) in whatever manner He sees fit. The Biblical account shows, though, that man is not very good at being obedient.
So, Jesus enters the scene, and provides a gracious provision. Jesus IS perfectly obedient, and he alone, fulfils the law. He also acts as the sacrificial lamb who pays the penalty for the disobedience of his people.
This is where faith comes in to play, as this defines who are Jesus's people. We are basically given a choice...do we accept the perfect life, the atoning death, and the resurection of Jesus Christ, and trust him to be our representative when judgement comes (i.e. do we stand before God as though Jesus's life record is our own -- this requires faith, as we're trusting in the validity of the testimony of Jesus, and we're trusting in him as our Saviour ), or do we reject that and choose to be our own representive -- do we rely on our own merit as the basis for our worthiness to be judged by God?